Bondi Beach's new home of warm timber panelling and warming Thirlmere duck.
Bondi local and award-winning chef Ian Oakes of The Grand National has opened his first restaurant, Drake, on the corner of Curlewis and Gould Streets in Bondi, a sea breeze distance from the beach. The eatery's name has the added bonus of causing a large portion of your friends to momentarily lose it when you say, "I'm going to Drake tonight."
Unfortunately, I can't vouch for what Drake the rapper tastes like, but Drake the restaurant is creating some seriously delicious fare. The fit-out is casual and unpretentious, characterised by recycled timber panels, exposed concrete beams and cosy low lights complemented by touches of zinc and copper. It feels like the sort of place a Japanese sound artist would record Zen ocean soundscapes, or in Oakes' words, "The sort of place I would like to eat on my days off." There's a bar where you can meet friends for a leisurely glass of wine and to snack on locally sourced cheese and charcuterie like smoked bresaola and Woodside Charleston Jersey brie before settling into the intimate dining area for something a little more substantial.
Oakes' vision was to open a welcoming eatery, showcasing locally sourced, seasonal and sustainable food, and he does not disappoint. The smaller starters are delicately crafted, and almost too pretty eat. Almost. We recommend the silky chicken liver parfait, with a stack of lightly charred bread and semi-sweet apple rhubarb chutney, or the delicately infused tea smoked trout with tart green apple straws and crisp celeriac ribbons. The thyme gnocchi is definitely a highlight. Soft little potato pillows, lightly pan seared and coated in butter were dappled with miniature mushroom umbrellas, sweet golden raisins and hazelnuts, and the intense bursts of Pecora blue served to balance the dish.
The mains are a little less fragile. Roasted Thirlmere duck with carrot puree and gingerbread crumbs felt like a warm, Christmasy hug, and though it lacked acidity, the perfectly rendered duck provided an internal cosiness perfect for the cooler months. The slow-cooked lamb with kale and slow cooked artichokes was a standout. The serving was large enough for two, and the meat was so perfectly cooked; it slumped from the bone before we even approached it with forks, though it was lacking a jus or gravy or some other delicious, meat-enhancing liquid.
The portions are large and "designed for sharing" (not unlike every new Sydney eatery), with sides that are generous and varied. The spiced grains, almonds and labne studded with bright pomegranate made for a robust salad, while the roasted pumpkin, streaky bacon and Brussels sprouts was the perfect accompaniment for any of the mains. I am glad that there seems to be a consensus among Sydney chefs that Brussels sprouts are most delicious when served fried, drizzled with caramelised balsamic and topped with crispy bacon.
The desserts were our favourite. Ricotta doughnuts were dreamy, cinnamon clouds served with dipping pools of toffee apple jam and tart lemon curd, while the creamy disc of white chocolate parfait atop a pool of salted caramel, studded with golden honeycomb and caramelised white chocolate, provided the perfect punctuation to end literally any meal.
Photos by Bodhi Liggett.