The coastal Sydney neighbourhood of Bondi has amazingly diverse dining options, from fine dining to casual burgers and delicious desserts, perfect for cooling off on a roasting hot day. Media mogul turned swimwear designer, Dale McCarthy, founder of swimwear brand BONDI BORN, shares her favourite places to grab a bite to eat in Bondi.
It’s widely accepted within Bondi’s foodie community that the most amazing thing about feasting in Bondi, other than the unforgettable views, is that most meals come with a high health rating, exceptional attention to detail, care and love for the environment and, of course, a hefty side serving of vitamin D. Bonafide foodie, former publisher of the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Guide and excellent home chef with skills honed while living in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong, Dale McCarthy is an expert on eating out in Bondi.
Bonafide foodie and Bondi local Dale McCarthy shares her favourite dining options in Sydney’s beachside suburb | Courtesy of Dale McCarthy
McCarthy is a Bondi local and understands that dining out is a part of life. Having launched her iconic luxury swimwear brand in 2015, she manages her business out of her Bondi home studio. She lives, works and breathes Bondi and is a total foodie, so who better to ask for restaurant recommendations?
“Bondi is an incredible mix of contemporary Australian culture,” McCarthy says. “The locals range from the super-wealthy to young families, urban singles and people seeking alternative lifestyles. People are drawn here by the natural beauty of the ocean and the culture that centres around the environment, health, food, art and fashion. It’s very inclusive, and that resonates with me.”
McCarthy’s own brand, BONDI BORN, is inspired by the Bondi lifestyle and care of the environment. And these values extend to Dale’s food choices, too. For McCarthy, dining out centres around quality and integrity, meaning the restaurants on this list all use high-quality, mainly locally sourced ingredients. Check out Dale’s top 10 places to eat in Bondi.
Totti’s is part of Sydney’s well-known Merivale Group and offers a menu that sits comfortably between a trattoria and a modern Australian kitchen. The venue is decorated in a pared-back palette, with whitewashed walls, tropical palms and rustic feature pieces, which, McCarthy explains, is a designer’s dream come true. The restaurant serves house-baked bread, fired in the ovens as you wait. McCarthy recommends sharing these freshly baked goods with friends over shared plates of antipasti.
Icebergs Dining Room and Bar is an iconic Bondi venue that is “perched atop the world’s most photographed ocean pool with gun barrel views over the beach. And on any night you may find yourself dining alongside an international celebrity,” says McCarthy. Diners come to Icebergs because of its world-class menu and world-class views. “As you’re spoiling yourself by merely being there,” she says, “you may as well go the whole hog and choose the tasting menu with matching wines.”
According to McCarthy there are almost more great baristas in Bondi than there are surfers. And Gertrude & Alice is where you can go to find one. “This café encapsulates the educated, bohemian side of Bondi,” she says, and, “the barista there is world-class.” The small café, which offers organic, home-baked treats, is also an operating bookshop. “As someone who lives online, I find Gertrude & Alice’s very grounding, filling me with the love and nostalgia of libraries and times gone past,” McCarthy adds.
The creative pan-Asian cuisine served at China Diner can make for a relaxed night on the town, although there is the option to eat in the more formal dining room. Either way, the Southeast Asian and Chinese options offer a fresh approach to Asian cuisine that you won’t find elsewhere in Sydney. The cocktail list is impressive, and there’s nothing better than sharing plates with all your friends.
McCarthy started BONDI BORN working out of a studio at her house, so she’d arrange all her meetings over breakfast and coffee at Bills on Hall Street. “The food is cooked perfectly with only the freshest local ingredients,” she says. “My time at Bills is always when I am having business meetings over coffee and ricotta hotcakes, banana and honeycomb butter in the morning or crispy salmon belly and green mango salad for lunch.” The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and offers a relaxed space to eat with indoor and outdoor seating.
Speedo’s Café best exemplifies Bondi’s local lifestyle for McCarthy. It sits just a few metres from the beach to the north; it is small and has a relaxed atmosphere and serves healthy dishes within a beautiful setting. “Don’t pass up the egg and bacon brioche roll if you’re just coming in from your morning swim, or the organic, raw, clean and vegan choices,” says McCarthy. The abundant, colourful breakfast bowls eaten while enjoying the views of the ocean have made Speedo’s Café the most Instagrammable restaurant in the neighbourhood. But thankfully behind the high profile image is real substance and quality of ingredients.
This is a local hotspot in North Bondi. Small and unpretentious, Bondi’s Best lives up to its name with fresh, sustainable seafood on the menu. “If you like seafood, Bondi’s Best offers a heady mix,” says McCarthy. “Fish ‘n’ chips, an in-house sashimi chef and a wine list that makes the seafood sing; this menu is perfect on a spring or summer evening with a table overlooking or on the footpath.”
Sean’s Panaroma has been serving Bondi’s community with home-style food since its owner, top chef Sean Moran, opened its doors in 1993. Moran uses only sustainable ingredients sourced from his farm just outside Sydney, and “then turns them into mouth-watering dishes of such delicate simplicity, you’ll want him to cook for you every night. This is home-cooked food like you could never be able to cook at home yourself,” McCarthy says. The menu at Sean’s changes regularly depending on what is in season.
And for dessert – “Beaches and ice cream were made for each other and Bondi has more than its fair share of ice cream parlours, but Messina takes it to a whole new level,” McCarthy says. While small in size, Gelato Messina offers more than 40 flavours and is very popular with the locals – queues often spill out on to Hall Street. “Messina is as obsessed with the origin of its ingredients as I am,” McCarthy muses. “The milk comes from its own dairy farm and Messina has searched the world to find the best single origin chocolate from Ecuador.”