Shopping centres are chaotic and stressful. Fact. So when Bondi Harvest, Sydney's very own good-for-you food and lifestyle YouTube sensation, turned digital into physical in the form of a restaurant, we were surprised to hear they'd settled on Westfield Bondi Junction as home. However, while it may not have the absolute beachfront charm that emanates from the now fairly famous vlogs and blogs of its channel, it does create a spacious, tranquil and tasty breakfast/lunch environment away from the heavy commercial traffic, food courts and cramped cafes outside.
For those unfamiliar with Bondi Harvest the brand, in a nutshell, back in 2013 advertising cameraman Mark Alston one day chose to do something different. Deciding on a cooking show, he was introduced to chef Guy Turland (est, Icebergs) via mutual friends, and before long, they were interviewing with Google, signing with YouTube and cooking alongside Carson Daly on The Today Show. Now, in 2015, they've launched Bondi Harvest the restaurant, decked out by Aussie designer Michael Delany.
The look is a mash-up of industrial greenhouse and beach shack, with an abundance of green in most of its forms (colours, plants, menu items) and nautical motifs to indicate its oceanic roots, like the big old oar hanging over a central salad bar and anchors painted on orb lighting. The first thing you'll notice walking in from the shopping centre is the huge communal table to the left, curving around the main dining area in an almost stretched hexagonal shape. To the right you won't miss the converted bar, still a bar, but now only for juices and smoothies.
Popping in for lunch (the breakfast menu finishes at noon and dinner service starts from January 28), food is divided into a couple of all-day breakfast items, sandwiches and the main attractions: four salad bases (changing daily depending on seasonal produce, all $15), displayed on old-school weighing scales and ready to be bundled together with your choice of protein (think poached chicken, halloumi and marinated meats for an extra price). On our visit we opted to dine in (pretty much all the menu is available to take away too) on the kale and cabbage 'slaw with a punchy chipotle, celeriac and fennel dressing and a far-from-skimpy serve of almost fat-less pulled lamb ($7 extra). The lamb was tender and juicy, the cabbage and kale was crunchy and the chipotle and fennel pulled through in a slow but fantastic spicy aftertaste. Thumbs up.
Curious to see if the menu catered well for those less inclined to salad, we also wrapped our lips around the beef fillet toasted sarnie with lettuce, cheese, pickles and chipotle mayo. On arrival, the appropriately toasted stack smelled great, and while the meat was thinly sliced, you could immediately taste quality. And again, the chipotle mayo was a winner: not that sweet, soulless crap too often smothered around, and with a subtle but tangy edge. Drinks, we ordered a YOLO and a Ginger Blush (both $8). The latter could do with a little more ginger (you expect a bit more of a punch with a name like that), but the YOLO had a good zing to it.
All in all, even though you won't have your food prepared by Turland himself (although on our visit we did see him walking around chatting to a couple of customers), as department store diners go, Bondi Harvest is certainly a fresh and healthy alternative to all the rubbish out there. So if your body is a temple, thank the gods for that.