The first stage of The Royal, the long-running Bondi pub, reopened in September, with punters able to quench their thirst yet again with daiquiris, espresso martinis and many take-home wines from the attached bottle-o. However, it's the pub's eatery we had all been waiting patiently for — and with Merivale steering the ship, we knew it wasn't going to be a half-hearted effort.
And you'll be happy to know, now that it's open, it's suitably impressive. Chefs Mike Eggert (Mr Liquor's Dirty Italian Disco, Pinbone) and Khan Danis (who worked at Rockpool alongside Neil Perry for 20 years) are heading up the kitchen of the Totti's, a casual Mediterranean-style eatery serving up pasta aplenty, woodfired breads and classic Italian cocktails.
The food is a more mature version of that served at Dirty Disco — the six-month pop-up at The Tennyson Hotel, and the first collab between Eggert and Merivale — with the menu aimed at convivial sharing.
Cooked-to-order Italian flatbreads come straight from the woodfired oven to the table, to rip and tear alongside small plates of house-made charcuterie and Italian cheeses. Pasta, a focus at Dirty Disco, is also central to the food offering here, with dishes like rigatoni with milk-braised pork belly, prawn casarecce and twists on classics, such as lamb ragu.
A Josper oven (part grill, part oven) fires most of the proteins, including fish, Bannockburn chicken and schnitzels charred to perfection, and sides include a radicchio and orange salad and baked eggplant with chilli. And remember that polenta, corn and chervil side that stole our stomachs at Dirty Disco? We can confirm that's made a comeback, too.
Another aspect of the eatery similar to Dirty Disco is the drinks. While there's no walk-in fridge — you'll have to head over to The Tennyson's latest pop-up for that — the pub's in-house bottle shop allows the eatery to have an extensive wine list, with house wines, naturals, biodynamics and higher-end varieties, all available by the carafe. Hop fans are taken care of with a long list of local beers and Mediterranean classics, such as negronis, and peach bellinis, will please the cocktail devotees.
The 185-seater restaurant and courtyard might seem mammoth, but Eggert maintains that it still feels like your local. "It's a big version of a small trattoria", says Eggert. "We want people to come in and be able to have a great bottle of wine with a steak, and still be in their clothes from the beach." The skylight and big alfresco area take inspiration from a taverna on the Mediterranean sea, with huge olive trees taking centre stage to really set the scene.
Images: Nikki To.