Venue Review – The Imperial Hotel, Paddington

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Dining Area next to the Kitchen - photo by TPGB

As tomorrow night is Game One for the NRL State of Origin, I have decided to swap around our venue review day in case you wanted to pop over to the pub to watch the game…. And who said designers didn’t like football!!

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Exterior Facade - photo by TPGB

Growing up in my house we were ablaze with State of Origin fever, state against state, mate against mate, in fact I don’t think you were allowed in the living room if you wore anything resembling QLD or wearing any speck of maroon. And you can be sure that there was either pizza or pies for dinner, usually swooshed down with a beer or two….

(For those of you who do NOT know what I am on about, State of Origin is an annual 3 game series of Rugby League played between NSW and QLD. The ‘origin’ part comes into it as the players can only play for the original state that they represented – for most players that is either NSW or QLD. It generates probably some of the best quality footy you are likely to see all year and is a hotly contested series, to say the least. My family are clearly NSW supporters).

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Cute Vintage Signage - photo by TPGB

These days I am more likely to head to the pub with a group of friends to watch the game as the family is spread around a bit, but I still get that excitement and nervous energy, and feel the urge to text my father and brothers throughout the series. I guess that life has phases and cycles, but some things remain the same.

And that brings me, in a rather long winded way, to the Imperial Hotel. Boy has that seen some swings and roundabouts! At a time when Oxford Street was teaming with the glamorous and gorgeous out for a spot of shopping, the Imperial Hotel was somewhat the ugly duckling… only, it’s been around for ages… so it was more just like an ugly duck. Now that Oxford Street in Padington has frayed drastically at the edges, with at least half the shops along the strip closed, the Imperial Hotel has re-emerged, in a brand spanking new outfit.

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The Imperial Hotel, Paddington - photo by TPGB

Oscar & I head out on a Monday night, expecting the pub to be vacant – gym night etc. But once we arrive we notice there are quite a few people enjoying a beer and a chat. Perhaps word has got around about the hand-cut 3-times-cooked chips? They certainly seem to be popular, with a bowl on just about every table!

Oscar was hoping to try out the pizzas, but the upstairs pizza restaurant is shut – it’s open Wednesday to Sunday (5pm – close) – so instead he eyes off the steaks, finally selecting the expensive Imperial Ribeye on the Bone with Hand-cut Chips and a selection of 3 Mustards ($38). I go for a somewhat girly pub meal, the Warm Lamb Salad ($20), as I am feeling guilty about not going to the gym. We order a bottle of the Hunter Valley 2009 Tintilla Estate “Saphira” Sangiovese ($48) to drink whilst we warm up in front of the downstairs fire on such a cold night.

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The Imperial Rib-eye Steak - photo by TPGB

It’s worthwhile pointing out here that the Imperial Hotel serves only wines from NSW (the perfect place to support the Cockroaches!!! Go NSW!!!) in an effort to promote locally produced food and wine, and reduce food miles. Regular wine tasting nights are a must – make sure you check out their website for more details. The Imperial Hotel also has a Social Club, with a view to bring the community together. It has great events such as a Harbour Sailing Night and a Safari Truck available to groups for pick-up and drop-off – AND – it’s free to join!

Our meals arrive promptly and Oscar’s steak is cooked to perfection. Nice and pink in the middle and incredibly tender and juicy – it’s a great steak, but you certainly pay for it. My lamb salad is ok. The sun-dried tomatoes add a real punch of flavour and the lamb is cooked well, it’s just that I’ve tasted better elsewhere. It’s what you might expect for a standard pub salad. The chips on the other hand are fantastic – crispy and crunchy with bits of potato skin still showing on the outside – they are delicious!

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Warm Lamb Salad - photo by TPGB

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Tintilla Sangiovese - photo by TPGB

The downstairs bar area is nice and bright and open. There are occasional seats around the fire, high bar tables and stools throughout the centre and banquette seats along the perimeter – something for everyone. The bar cuts through from the front room through to the back adjacent the outdoor terrace area and is quite nicely detailed with under-bench lighting. I really love the outdoor terrace area with bamboo garden beds set against the wall and open to the night sky.

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Downstairs Bar - photo by TPGB

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Outdoor Courtyard - love the bamboo! - photo by TPGB

Upstairs there are Function Rooms, the Pizza Bar, a Smoking Balcony and… you guessed it… a Karaoke Room – it’s what every pub needs of course!! The manager was very kind and took me around upstairs but – no pics – as the lights were mostly off. All the more reason to head over there and check it out yourself!

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Cheese Plate - photo by TPGB

As if we needed any more food – Oscar couldn’t help but order the Cheese Plate ($19). I swear this man is on a mission to stop me from fitting into my wedding dress later this year!!! How good does this look?! You try saying ‘No’! The cheeses are mild and yummy…. and the figs…!! Enough said…

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More Vintage Finishes - photo by TPGB

The Imperial Hotel does a few things really well. It’s remained a pub. It looks like a pub – a much nicer one now, thank you. It serves great pub food, at mostly reasonable prices. And… it brings people together… to support the community, share a wine or watch the sport!

Summary:
In a world where things are forever changing, it’s good to know that a pub can still be a pub – but a good looking one.

LOVIN’: Local produce and community support
NOT LOVIN’: Oscar wanted a bigger steak…
NOISE: It was quiet on a Monday, but I suspect it could get quiet loud
BRING: Anyone
HOW MUCH: $$$$$
WHERE: 252 Oxford Street, Paddington 2021
WHEN: Mon – Sat: 10am – 12pm  Sunday: 10am – 10pm
CONTACT: (02) 9331-2023
www.imperialhotelpaddington.com.au

Also check out the TimeOut review here - which is not really a review – I had a hard time trying to find one!

Imperial Hotel on Urbanspoon

GB x

Venue Review – The Lodge, Balmain

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The Facade - photo by TPGB

It’s an unassuming facade…. Certainly not somewhere that you’d normally think to see rich red velvet theatre curtains… And probably not somewhere where you’d expect to fall, Alice-in-Wonderland-like, to another world.

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Outdoor Clock - super cute! - photo by TPGB

And let’s face it, the sunny Saturday afternoon that we swing by The Lodge, I’m pretty sure that Alice is looking much better than us. Oscar has just finished playing 90 mins of soccer against rival team Balmain, and I have just finished thrashing myself at a 7.445km (to be exact..!) run, that has left my face red and salty and my gluteus maximus, a little on the sore side… A very attractive pair. So it is with a little trepidation that we walk down the stairs and through the red stage curtains to the bar. We figure, we’ve done the hard yards, and that we deserve a beer, whatever we look like!

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Fog City Cider - photo by TPGB

Thankfully the attractively 1950′s vintage-dressed girl behind the bar does not stare, but rather, cheerfully helps us with the beer menu. Oscar opts for the Fog City Cloudy (Apple) Cider ($10.50) and because I’m feeling virtuous and cleansed from all that running uphill, I go for the Mountain Goat Organic Steam Ale ($10) (yes… my previous life…).

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Mountain Goat Beer - photo by TPGB

The cider and the beer are lovely, my ale has a bitter full flavour, and is the perfect thirst quencher. Oscar’s cider is tart, crisp and refreshing – ‘delicious!’ is how he describes it. Perhaps beer is an unusual choice considering the 200 plus wine list, and the healthy display of whiskey and port behind the bar, but it’s what we need right now, and I have a feeling we’ll be back to try out the wines later.

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Bar Detail - photo by TPGB

The Lodge is yet another offering from the Ed Cutcliffe (Little Marionette) burgeoning empire. I chat to his sister Coeli and discover that it has taken some time to get this little wine bar through council – trust me, I understand!! If it was anything like my dealings with Leichhardt Council – they have done well to open at all!! But honestly, I am so glad that they have persevered.

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Interior Banquette Detail - love the lights! - photo by TPGB

This tiny little wine bar is all high timber ceilings, timber wall panels, leather banquettes and marble table tops. I can’t decide if it’s more Wild West Saloon or French style under-ground cafe….? Whatever it is, it’s certainly not what you’d expect off Darling Street, Balmain. It feels like something that you might meander unexpectedly into down in Melbourne. It’s atmospheric, a little moody and the perfect place to escape and hide away from the real world for a while.

The Lodge, Balmain Wine Bars, Sydney Wine Bars

Outdoor Seating Area

It also has an outdoor seating area that is probably larger than inside (your link to the outside world). Perfect for the outdoor beer or summer chardy… and lush with outdoor shrubbery. (I have to apologise here, the above photo is terribly over exposed, but at least you get the idea of what the outdoor seating looks like..).

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Indoor Clock! - photo by TPGB

I love the clocks – there is one inside and one outside. The indoor one is my fave, although I’m not sure why we need two? To avoid clock envy? So we don’t madly hop around like the White Rabbit exclaiming that we are late??! Whatever the case, they certainly add a focal point to the room and I am all for them!

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Interior Banquette - photo by TPGB

The Lodge has a regularly updated tapas style bar menu. On the day that we stop by there are Handcut Chips with Pecorino & Truffle Aioli ($7.50), Wagyu Rump with Potato & Bacon Gratin & Horseradish Creme Fraiche ($15.50) and a Banana, Dulce du Leche & Walnut Ice-Cream Sandwich ($8.50).

Honestly, we are both starving and would love to stay for longer, however, common decency prevents us from lingering too long in our sweaty sports gear and turning others off their meals. Much better to come back when we can sink back into those comfy leather chairs, share a nice red wine over twinkling candle-lights and spend time in Balmain’s Little Wonderland.

Summary:
This is a great place to loose yourself for a few hours in another world.

LOVIN’: Dramatic red curtains and marble top tables.
NOT LOVIN’: ?
NOISE: Low
BRING: Anyone
HOW MUCH: $$$$$
WHERE: 3/415 Darling Street, Balmain NSW 2041
WHEN: Mon – Sun: 4pm – 10pm
CONTACT: (02) 8084-2502
The Lodge FB page

Also check out the What Katie Ate here and the TimeOut review here.

Lodge Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

GB x

Venue Review – Buffalo Dining Club, Darlinghurst

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Buffalo Dining Club, Darlinghurst - Front Facade - photo by TPGB

I have to say that when I think of Buffaloes, I think of vast American prairies with open expanses of grass and buffaloes with shaggy coats and horns… perhaps I have the wrong country? And these are in fact Yaks? Or something else? Whatever the case, the animals I think of are large and hairy bovines with horns – BIG horns… (often with snot dribbling out their noses…) and on the way to Buffalo Dining Club I am expecting a large set of bovine horns stuck somewhere on a wall…. And perhaps a cow hide banquette… Ranch style… You know what I mean?

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Downstairs Dining Area - photo by TPGB

Buffalo Dining Club could not be further from a ranch. When we arrive relatively early on a Friday – around 6:30pm, there are no horns, I am happy to say…. in fact there are no stuffed animals of any kind… and definitely no cowboys either… only cool looking people on already full tables… the closest you might get to anything ranchy is the mural on the wall… I can vaguely see a lasso in there somewhere? Maybe…? What you will find here at Buffalo Dining Club is Buffalo Mozzarella – in all its soft, plump, cheesy glory!

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Mural - Love! - photo by TPGB

We wait to chat to Marcelo (Garrao) who is a friend of Oscar’s from soccer and co-owner of Buffalo Dining Club (along with Peter Kypreos and Michael Fantuz – from Table for 20). Marcelo greets us warmly and shows us to a cute little banquette upstairs (no cow hide). He tells us that Buffalo Dining Club used to be the old Burgerman – and a light flickers on in my mind. The last time I went to Burgerman, the whole place felt sterile – like a hospital, all white walls and fluorescent lights – only with burgers and tomato shaped sauce bottles… Thank God all this has changed… In it’s place you will find a refined yet comfortable terrace-style charm and a clever, delicious (and reasonably priced) menu.

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Upstairs Dining Area - photo by TPGB

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Buffalo Mozzarella, Olives & Pumpkin, Spelt & Rocket Salad - photo by TPGB

When I say ‘clever’ I mean that the chefs here at Buffalo Dining Club have had the intelligence to provide food that is of really fantastic quality, and then leave it alone… rather than mucking around with the ingredients and muddying the flavours. The food is what it is… honest and pure.

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Pata Negra & Prosciutto San Daniele - photo by TPGB

We order from the blackboard on the wall. I go for the Buffalo Mozzarella – of course – with two sides – Roasted Pumpkin, Spelt and Rocket Salad and a bowl of Olives ($17). Oscar orders the Burratina (Goats Cheese) with two sides – White Anchovies & Crispy Polenta with Gorgonzola ($15). We also order some “PIG” – 30 grams each of the Prosciutto San Daniele ($5) and the prized Pata Negra ($7). To wash all this down, we also order a bottle of the Alamos Malbec from Argentina ($48).

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Burratina (Goats Cheese), White Anchovies & Crispy Polenta with Gorgonzola - photo by TPGB

Our meals arrive promptly accompanied by a plentiful supply of bread – in a variety of shapes and sizes. The “PIG” arrives in heavenly thin slices of salty, fatty yumminess on traditional deli paper (it is sliced freshly per order from the kitchen downstairs). My Buffalo Mozzarella is soft, mild, plump and delicious!! Forkful after forkful of soft, white mozzarella pillows glide into my mouth and I’m not so keen on sharing with Oscar. However, goats cheese is one of my most favourite cheeses in the whole entire world, so I do manage to swap a few portions for some of Oscar’s Burratina. It is truly worth the trade – and I’m not really sure which is I like best in the end… The Malbec is dry to start with strong tannins and plummy with dark berries, yet mellows and turns velvety as we progress further into the meal – it is the perfect accompaniment to our feast!

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Downstairs Dining Area again - photo by TPGB

Whilst we munch away on what is essentially a main-sized cheese and charcuterie plate each, someone at the next table has ordered the “Spaghetti” ($18). For a dish that is labelled very simply, there is a fair bit of drama involved – so much so, that it takes two staff members to serve it! An enormous wheel of mozzarella cheese, filled with steaming spaghetti, is hauled along to the table by one staff member. The other then proceeds to chip off chunks of parmesan and whirl the spaghetti around to melt all the flavours through before serving it into a bowl and placing it before a hungry customer. Simple, fabulous food, served in a really cool way. I loved this part!!

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Spaghetti in the Wheel of Parmesan Cheese!! - photo by TPGB

Marcelo generously orders us complimentary desserts. 3 scoops of Gelato (Raspberry, Sweet Potato & Chocolate) and a Tiramisu. The Tiramisu is proper Italian Tiramisu. Soft, moist sponge and cream delicately balanced with espresso and chocolate. There is no overpowering booze or meddling with new flavours – this Tiramisu is the real deal. The gelato was stunning – and it might sound weird, but the grey-ish coloured sweet potato gelato was my favourite! Definitely give this one a try!

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Tiramisu & Gelato - Yum! - photo by TPGB

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Cute details along the staircase - photo by TPGB

Buffalo Dining Club has transformed what was a very sterile and boring place into something that has character and charm whilst remaining modern – a little bit of Italian restaurant crossed with Paddinghurst Terrace. Here you will find concrete floors, dark timber stairs, wrought iron balustrades, a vaulted double space, rustic plaster walls, a huge side mirror, blackboards, a wine wall, exposed light-bulbs and twinkling candles. Oh… and the pop-art style mural… But it works… really works… It’s eclectic and interesting but comfortable. There is no pretense. I love it!

And it’s strange, even with all those hard surfaces and vaulting ceilings – it’s not noisy.

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Looking over rail from upstairs dining area - photo by TPGB

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Oscar & Marcelo - photo by TPGB

Summary:
Honesty and charm – arm in arm.

LOVIN’: I can’t pick… If I wrapped some Pata Negra around a blob of Mazzarella and Burratina I’d be in heaven….
NOT LOVIN’: ?
NOISE: Low
BRING: Anyone
HOW MUCH: $$$$$
WHERE: 116 Surrey Street, Darlinghurst NSW 2010
WHEN: Wed – Sat: noon – 11:pm (no bookings)
CONTACT: (02) 9332-4052
Buffalo Dining Club FB page

Also check out the SMH review here and the TimeOut review here.

Buffalo Dining Club on Urbanspoon

GB x

PS – A big thanks to Marcelo and the Team at Buffalo Dining Club for being so incredibly hospitable and allowing us to run around and snap pics all over the place. We had a great time and a great meal!!

Chapter One – Cafe / Wine Bar Review

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Front Facade - photo by TPGB

Today we would like to thank the team at Chapter One for their time here at thepeagreenboat! These guys have started up the cutest little cafe and wine bar – and in one of the best spots in Sydney – Bondi Beach! In fact – you can see Bondi Beach stretch out in front of you as you sip on your mac or slurp on your vino tinto… awesome!

Bez, Rosie and Meg have had some what of a sea change, as you’ll see in their interview below, but we are so glad that they did! Oscar, Dave, Linda and I all went for a vino and a snack the other night – and the food was delicious! Not to mention my glass of Tommy Ruff – definitely give that one a whirl! We spent about $106 between us – 8 drinks, 2 cheese plates, olives, duck liver pate, salami, shaved pork loin, a plate of grilled haloumi – and a light show – thanks to the lightning down on the beach. What more could you want?

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Best Tag Line EVER... - photo by TPGB

Tell us a little about yourselves and how Chapter One came about.
All three of us have worked in the fitness industry for many years so Chapter One is a big lifestyle change for us. We have always enjoyed throwing parties and had some really great ideas of what we thought would work in Bondi, we thought with our customer service background and energy that we had what it takes to start a business…

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Entry - this little girl was soo cute... love her stripes! - photo by TPGB

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Salami & Pork Loin Plate - with Humous - photo by TPGB

Chapter One is a relatively new business, how long did it take for Chapter One to come to fruition? What obstacles, if any, did you encounter? And how did you overcome them?
We have been open for 7 months… We had quite an ordeal getting the shop open once we found the site. In total it was well over a year from when we signed the lease and work actually commenced on site… drama’s with council and processes we were not even aware of (as we were a part of a strata)! Lucky we had a lot of market research to do, with plenty of wine that we obviously NEEDED to drink, in order to have the best wine list in town!!

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Duck Liver Pate & Cheese plate - photo by TPGB

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Looking back to the entry - photo by TPGB

What are some of the inspirations you drew upon for the design of Chapter One?
We wanted to have a very European feel to Chapter One… We also needed a space that could transition from Casual Café by day to intimate Wine Room by night… We have tiles that feel very Moroccan, cushions that feel middle-eastern or Aztec, walls that feel almost like you are sitting in Tuscany… BUT somehow, we think it works!

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Notice Board - photo by TPGB

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Dave makes a debut... in amongst the vintage mirrors - photo by TPGB

What environmental or sociological considerations did you implement when you were designing Chapter One? What type of materials do you focus on, if any?
We used a lot of recycled timber & furniture that we painstakingly searched through many timber yards for. Old doors, timber, windows… things that would help us create the rustic charm we were after. Every piece has a story!

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Display above the kitchen - that's antique mirror lining the wall - photo by TPGB

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Light Fetish... as you all know - photo by TPGB

Chapter One is a great little café/wine bar – what is the food concept behind it?
We have tried where possible to use small, local suppliers that have a similar business to us… Simple food but with great produce!!  Our evening menu is also very simple but we have tried to have some beautiful imported cheese and charcuterie as well as having some amazing local stars along side them. Our wine list has a real soft spot for natural wine makers that use bio-dynamic techniques and use minimal additives… We think they are truly amazing!

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At night... I love the fairy lights!! - photo by TPGB

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A cosy corner to chat in... - photo by TPGB

What do people HAVE to have when they go to Chapter One?
For brekkie a definite favourite would be our Sourdough toast with Avo, Tomato, Fetta and a Soft Boiled Egg (or TAFE as we like to call it)… Delicious!! In the evening our Duck and Orange Pate or Truffled Pecorino… Amazing! And not too many people can turn down a glass of Tommy Ruff from the Barossa.

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Screen Detail - photo by TPGB

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Front counter again - photo by TPGB

Are there future plans for Chapter One that we should know about? Are there any planned events ahead that people should book for?
We have a couple of winemaker dinners coming up over the next few weeks where we have some of our favourite winemakers come in and showcase their vintages, telling the story behind each vino and matching with food. They are heaps of fun and end up being quite an interesting journey!

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View from Chapter One - photo by TPGB

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Lightning show... - photo by TPGB

And lastly – as Australian business people – what’s your favourite piece of Australia?
We would honestly say the view out of our front window… We like to say our Barista has the best barista view in the world!

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Beautiful fresh flowers... - photo by TPGB

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Last ones to leave - photo by TPGB

Again thanks so much to Bez, Rosie and Meg for their time at thepeagreenboat. Make sure you get yourselves down there for a drink with the best view in town!

Don’t forget to check out there website here and their facebook page here for more info.

Summary:
Vino with a view!

LOVIN’: all of it to be honest – but definitely try the Tommy Ruff
NOT LOVIN’: ?
NOISE: Low
BRING: Anyone
HOW MUCH: $$$$$
WHERE: 34 Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach NSW 2026
WHEN:
Mon – Tue: 06:30 – 15:00
Wed – Sat: 06:30 – 22:30
Sun: 07:00 – 22:00
CONTACT: 0416 201 601
www.chapter-one.com.au

Chapter One Coffee and Wine Room on Urbanspoon

GB x

Page 81 – Cafe Design Review – Bondi Picnic

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Bondi Picnic - Hall St, Bondi - photo by TPGB

I have had my Mum staying with me for the last few days here in Sydney, which is always something that I look forward to, believe it or not. We had a quiet (rare) morning together yesterday so I thought it would be really great to drag my very lady-like Mum along to one of the newest and stylish cafe offerings in Bondi, Bondi Picnic, to indulge in a yummy breakfast.

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The Main Bar - photo by TPGB

We actually drove past the cafe a couple of times before I realised where it was – there is no signage and the awning is painted a stormy blue charcoal – so it’s easy to miss, despite it fabulous corner location.

The interiors for this cafe are amazing…. lovely, fresh, open and sunny. With oodles of window seats and sunlight streaming in.

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Fruit Bruschetta

The staff here are amazingly friendly… perhaps it’s because they’ve all just had a cup of some of the best coffee in Bondi – YES you heard me – I am going to make that claim… THE BEST COFFEE IN BONDI. Pretty tough considering how many cafes and restaurants are floating around (literally… in all this wet weather…). But really when you consider that it’s got backing from Andrew Crabbe (Bondi Icebergs and The Crabbe Hole) and Ed Cutcliffe (Little Marionette) it’s hardly surprising.

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2 free range eggs, poached, with sourdough toast and avocado

Mum is starving as I have made her wait until 10:30am to eat and she’s lucky the service here is super speedy. Ordering is at the bar, but the staff bring over the menu and take the coffee order straight away. Mum opts for the Breakfast Fruit Bruschetta ($8.50), I go for the 2 free range eggs (poached or scrambled) and toast ($9) plus a side of avocado ($3). And of course, the above mentioned amazing coffee… did I mention that it was the BEST COFFEE IN BONDI??

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Smashed eggs... with avo... Yeah..!

Whilst I make a mess of my eggs and toast, Mum stuffs down, sorry… speedily nibbles… her fruit bruschetta, and I have to quickly nab a bit before it is all gone. It is a delightful mix of ricotta, toast, seasonal fruit berries all drizzled with honey. Yum! And a nice twist to the standard breakfast fare. My eggs are perfectly poached and I am a happy lady… yes… LADY…. one who eats with her fingers and wipes egg goo off her face – with a napkin.

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Cute little table setting - loving the salt dish! Which I spilt...!

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Specials board and window seats

I really love the ceiling and rear bar wall detail. Timber slats that wrap down the wall and then turn into shelving. It’s a simple, neat and stylish way to effortlessly blend design with function. And of course, I am seriously loving the industrial lighting above the bar – HOT!

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Ceiling and wall detail with awesome industrial lights

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Love the cute table settings here... & the amount of glorious light spilling in!

I think the other thing that makes Bondi Picnic so great is that the design has maximised the natural light, by keeping the walls fresh and white and the whole design very simple. There is no additional paraphernalia, no taxidermied animal heads, no left-over-hole-in-the-wall-that-is-supposed-to-be-cool-but-we-know-that-you-just-couldn’t-be-bothered-to-spend-the-money, no vintage clutter. Simple. Honest. Light. Love it.

Combine all that with the coffee, yummy food and friendly staff – this place is sure to be your new fave cafe destination.

Bondi Picnic, Cafe Review, Bondi Cafes (10)

Front Entry

Summary:
Forget the picnic rug and the ants… go here instead!

LOVIN’: the coffee – yeah… you know… THE BEST
NOT LOVIN’: ?
NOISE: Low
BRING: Anyone
HOW MUCH: $$$$$
WHERE: 101 Hall St, Bondi 2026
WHEN: Daily – 7am – 4pm
CONTACT: www.facebook.com/pages/Bondi-Picnic

Bondi Picnic on Urbanspoon

GB x

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