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Friday, May 16, 2008

Bondi Trattoria

The terrace at the Bondi Trattoria has arguably the best view of any restaurant in Bondi. A major magnet for morning sun-seekers, it's also a sought-after spot at night when the local lights, strung along the foreshore, hanging off the hotels and winding up the hills, twinkle alluringly.

The view from inside, behind the fold-back glass doors, is not too shabby either. The folks who run the Bondi Trattoria have cleverly lit the interior so the artificial firmament twinkles like the ceiling in the Capitol Theatre. In a happy synchronicity, the diffused lighting makes everyone look handsome, healthy and shiny, from the black-clad young couples and the middle-aged men in their striped shirts to a table of tenderly beautiful brunettes with satiny, cut-glass cheekbones.

The locals call this restaurant the Tratt and it's been a haunt for 20 years, as the inlaid inscription says on the floor. Here's where they bring visiting parents, celebrate with friends and vintage champagne, or pop in for a quick meal and head home by 8.30.

They are cared for by uber-professional staff, fazed by nothing, not even a woman who wanders in and stands by the bar, gazing upwards. She disappears into the night. The service never misses a beat. Not one but two people come to our table to deposit menus and ask if we'd like something to drink.

The French-accented waitress returns with water and a joyous smile and runs through the specials chalked on the blackboard.

Despite the chatter and the clatter, we can easily hear that tonight we can have Sydney rock oysters, figs with gorgonzola, panfried and baked snapper, rigatoni with lamb bolognaise and a dessert tasting plate. These will, of course, be old news by this weekend.

The regulars, however, will still be on the clipboard menu along with a short wine list, more pasta, pizza, entrees and mains. They are a blend of traditional Italian trattoria influence and Australian ingredients, such as buffalo milk mozzarella, ocean trout carpaccio, risotto primavera, hiramasa kingfish, roast milk-fed veal with lentils, barbecued grass-fed beef fillet and Ligurian fish stew.

We vote to divide our attentions democratically between the specials and the usuals.

First up, chicken broth with risoni and silverbeet, steamed Boston Bay mussels with tomato, garlic and chilli (both from the menu) and Sydney rock oysters, "shucked to order" (from the specials blackboard). Purists would enjoy severing the tricky beggars from their little muscles. They might expect the briny bivalves to be fatter but couldn't expect more from the lovely eschallot vinaigrette. Boston Bay mussels are small, springy and gorgeous. Their white wine and tomato sauce has heat and power, yet the molluscs hold their own. Nice balancing act. Chicken broth gets the nod for its subtle fennel and silverbeet-laced stock, though it needs salt.

34 Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach
(02) 9365 4303
Mon-Fri, 7am-late; Sat-Sun, 8am-late.


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