There aren’t many places that are bold enough to pump out Dr Dre to a packed out restaurant at 8pm on a Tuesday night, but Rob Gal and Elliot Krass are more than happy to at their new diner with a nostalgic twist. Sit down among original photos of mods and punks, soak up the beats and get ready for meatballs better than your mother makes.
The absolute first port of call when arriving at a restaurant is, of course, to get a drink, and the signature drink here is a corker. Taking your typical hangover cure and adding a kick, a twist and a punch in the face is the Bootleg Bloody Mary created from a crisp tomato consomme and a Worcestershire sauce bite that’ll stay with you for days. It’s brash and delicious, but it’s also strangely palate cleansing, paving the way for the meal to come.
The Kale Caesar! salad is an interesting way to start the meal. The curly darling of health nuts around the world is coated in a light egg dressing, accompanied by some sizeable croutons and a smattering of anchovies. The textures are well represented, from melting egg to crunchy bread, and the salt of the anchovy picks up the flavour slack.
Pickling is the method of preserving du jour in Sydney, and Bootleg is more than happy to throw their hat into that ring. The pickles aren’t bathed in a vinegar flavour and instead give off the subtlety of the brine. Coated in a crispy batter and accompanied by a mild aioli, the fried pickles are bitey yet smooth, and very satisfying. Throw some classic onion rings into the mix, and the sides and starters are sorted at Bootleg.
The focus of the menu at Gal and Krass's revamped diner is, of course, the meatballs. Described lovingly across the menu simply as ‘balls’, they take centre stage on every dish. Choose from your beef, your pork, your beef and pork, fish balls or the vego balls made from chickpea and eggplant, and you’ve got the basis of your meal, then the fun begins.
It’s a menu that’s designed to give you exactly what you want, as long as there are balls involved. Including variations on sauce (‘overs’), and pasta (‘unders’) and sides, there are more than 3,000 possible combinations on offer at Bootleg Meatballs. Basically, every punter gets to play choose-your-own-adventure with dinner, and always get it right.
The white sauce that accompanies the meatballs is absolutely stunning. It’s an incredibly well-balanced bechamel that allows its cheese flavours to be tasted without dominating. It’s rich and creamy, and presents beautifully on the plate. To go with it, we had the fish balls. To go with the variety of Napoli, white and green sauces, the fish balls are made so that the flavour of fish is there without it dominating the dish, and it’s a great success.
The sliders, however, steal the show at Bootleg. Served on homemade buns, prepared daily, the slider with pork meatballs, crispy bacon, cheddar and a Napoli sauce on the side is unbelievably good. The pork meatballs are intensely delicious, and the crumbly cheddar complements the crunchy shards of bacon underneath. The bun, too, provides a top-notch bed for it all to come together on, and it’s refreshing to see Gal steer away from the brioche bun that’s all too popular now.
Krass and Gal’s revamped diner is meant to be exactly that — it’s a place to come and get what you want, how you want it. This goal is kicked by the pure quantity of options available, and the quality of all of them. More than that, though, Bootleg Meatballs allows the diner the opportunity to kick back in a crowded shop on comfy seats, surrounded by mix-and-match pop culture paraphernalia, and enjoy a damn fine meal.