Erykah Badu has always been a good sign for me. Whether its a cafe or a clothes shop, if I hear her music it's a sign that I'm in the right place at the right time. So, when it's a sparkler of a summer day at Bondi and I'm sat in front of the windows at Sean's Panorama, it was no surprise to hear Erykah's voice sliding out of the speakers, across the street and out over the waves crashing on Bondi Beach.
As we ogle the view, a family walks in for lunch; one of the sons has bare feet. Next to us a trio of suited-up, male mid-life crises are talking 'big data' and 'synergies' (no joke). Outside, a young mother in Rick Owens sneakers gets a toddler in a Chicago Bulls jersey out of an X5. This is how Bondi rolls.
No one here is anyone but themselves because, as a Sydney institution, Sean's is nothing but itself. There are no pretentions and no shortcuts. The roses on the tables are from the garden. They have that long-forgotten scent. The waitstaff are the sort that do this because they want to, not because it's a job that will finance a ticket to somewhere else.
What's also real is the house-made bread and butter. Both white and wholewheat ($6 for both) come warm, and you desperately remind yourself of your mother's warning not to fill up on them before the mains.
Judged as a blackboard listing alone, a tomato, watermelon and feta salad ($28) and a rocket pasta with zucchini and almonds ($29) warrant the denigration du jour — 'basic'. Perfection in the individual components on each of these dishes is anything but. Rough cut, room-temperature tomatoes (Praise be!) in a thin, sunlight-coloured pool of oil are the answer to all your heirloom, vine-ripened tomato fantasies. Fat, hand rolled ribbons of rocket-flavoured pasta have the same effect on your palate that the view of the Pacific sprawled before you has on your eyes.
When the basics are this good, ordering the chicken main ($45) begins to feel like an obligation. This logic is rewarded as breast, thigh and leg pieces congregate in holy, crisp-skinned communion. The accompanying creamed corn and slaw are nearly an insult to meat cooked this perfectly, but they definitely don't go astray.
After this, dessert doesn't get any more basic than vanilla ice cream with raspberry jelly ($19). You could almost laugh for the way the vivid jelly and first-kiss shock of vanilla ice cream conjure up all the joy of the packet stuff that made you so happy so long ago. Today though, you delicately pick at them with shards of the accompanying florentine to make it last as long as you can.
I could have guessed, but I didn't, that the bill would be hand-written and our leftovers would be handed over wrapped in tin foil. As we leave, a kid outside rolls an esky atop a skateboard towards the beach and clouds roll in from the east. Sean has it good.
Images: Enzo Amato and Sean's Panorama Instagram