Taking up the former Rojo Rocket spot, Bombini injects a little Italian fine dining into the Central Coast food scene. The restaurant name — meaning 'bumblebee' — is a nod to the mantra of its creators, chef Cameron Cansdell and front of house Hayley Hardcastle, who believe uncompromisingly in the use of fresh, sustainable and local produce, increasingly sourced from their 2 acre vegetable garden and orchard. Cameron, formerly head chef of Manfredi at the five star resort Bells at Killcare, delights tourists and draws locals back time and time again with an evolving seasonal menu — that means up to four new dishes a week.
The restaurant's cottage veranda is intimate yet alive with the buzz of conversation and the ambient sound of cicadas on the other side of the charming louvered glass windows. Inside, patrons can dine in larger groups with the additional pleasure of watching (and smelling!) their dinner being created in the open kitchen.
Bombini's three-course menu features dishes from the traditional end of the spectrum (buffalo mozzarella with roast pumpkin and herb antipasto [$9]; pappardelle with rich duck, veal and rosemary ragu [$23/$33]; grilled chicken with roast carrots, walnut and Pantelleria salsa [$33]) to the more modern king prawns with pomegranate, fennel, mint and olive ($14) and the Il' turanici spaghetti with yellow fin tuna, capers chilli and Garum di tonno sauce ($23/$33).
Each dish's flavour is defined by the provenance of its ingredients — from pumpkin sweetened by its garden origin to pasta made from ancient wheat varieties, to organically farmed chickens reared just a couple of hours north up the coast. The expertly home-smoked and perfectly warm ocean trout with celeriac and capers ($10), first trialled at Cast-Off Sustainable Seafood Festival, is equally flavoursome and ethical.
Bombini's beverage list features Australian, French and Italian wines, a cast of premium spirits subconsciously persuading a cocktail order, and a particularly Italian array of beers and ciders. Their aperitivo and sticky wine collections make a fine argument for dessert. And be sure to leave room, as the gelato ($12 for two flavours) needs to be tasted to be believed. But no need to feel guilty, it's churned daily and created preservative free using only natural ingredients. For a plate of sin, look no further than the Amedei chocolate ganache cake ($15).
Those wishing to simply drop in for a nibble or nightcap in a veranda booth will appreciate the selection of sides, cured meats ($12 each), and Italian and French cheeses ($10 each). Charitably, Bombini have also catered for those who wish to take a slice of the heaven home with The Pantry, their adjoining store selling fine cooking products and the home-baked bread you undoubtedly used to mop up the green-olive salsa from the Yellowtail Kingfish secondi. If that's not enough, try a different speed and return for lunch over the weekend or breakfast and coffee on Sunday.
A combination of great, ethical and fresh produce, an innovative chef and a generous host create an excellent dining experience, but it's the manifestation of a long-term dream that makes it all the more rich. With literal roots in the ground, Bombini is here to stay.
Words and images by Annabel Campbell.