13/20

Anatoli

500 Oxford Street, Bondi Junction, NSW

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More covert than overt: The Anatoli fit-out is dark, moody and sophisticated for a pub bistro.
More covert than overt: The Anatoli fit-out is dark, moody and sophisticated for a pub bistro. Photo: Janie Barrett

Terry Durack

Market segmentation: it’s a fancy term for breaking down your audience into subsets, then implementing specific strategies to target them.

Take, for instance, the new corner building in Bondi Junction where American homeware chains West Elm, Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma have opened recently. Three different stores with three different entrances designed to appeal to three different target groups – and they’re all owned by the same San Franciscan retail company.

Walk down Oxford Street a little way  to the Eastern Hotel, and you have a similar set-up, albeit vertical. The third floor is El Topo rooftop Mexican; the second floor is Chimmi’s Latin American street food, and the first floor is Anatoli, the latest addition to Sydney’s growing ranks of modern Greek diners. Three different restaurants with three different entrances, designed to appeal to three different target groups – and they’re all owned by the same pub group, Eastern Hotels.

Dish-of-choice: Charred okra, burghul, anchovy and garlic, $16.
Dish-of-choice: Charred okra, burghul, anchovy and garlic, $16. Photo: Janie Barrett

Chef Matt Fitzgerald attracted glowing reviews for his nifty south-of-the-border tacos and tortillas at El Topo when it opened last year. Now that he’s responsible for the skordalia and sardines at Anatoli as well, he must be getting to know the stairwell pretty intimately.

In contrast with the lively  theming of El Topo and Chimmi’s, the Anatoli fit-out is more covert than overt, with its dark, moody lighting, solid metal-framed tables, decorative preserving jars of multi-coloured pickles and small central open kitchen. It’s a sophisticated step up for apub bistro, the only downer being the passing parade of shoppers’ legs seen through a window to the shopping mall.

Fitzgerald approaches the ‘‘Greek and surrounds’’ cooking with a light hand, a contemporary vision and an adventurous spirit. His menu runs from asparagus with hen’s egg, rusk and mullet roe to scallops teamed with barley, nettles and celeriac, and saffron chicken with Jerusalem artichoke and fragrant millet. Even good old taramasalata ($10) gets a modern makeover, presented in a sardine tin complete with ring-pull top. It’s cutely styled, with a good undercurrent of punch from the dried mullet roe, but the texture is thin, and the accompanying croutons of Iggy’s bread are shatter-crisp.

It’s a brave chef who serves an entire globe artichoke ($10), as it seems fewer and fewer people are aware of the pleasures of tearing off each leaf, dipping it into a runny lemon butter sauce, and scraping the flesh off against your teeth. Too tiring, too messy, too labour-intensive, apparently. They’re all mad. It’s by far the best way to eat this noble vegetable, and full marks to the kitchen for offering it.

The long room with its four different exits must be a difficult space to wrangle, and the young service team is still being bedded down by the effortlessly professional Wimmy Winkler. Wine duties fall to the knowledgeable sommelier, Manuel Conti, who is able to match customers to something interesting and appropriate from the sizeable contingent of Greek wines (curated by former Arras sommelier Alon Sharman) without fuss or favour. For me, that means a  refreshing  2010 Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko/Athiri blend from Santorini ($13 a glass/$58 a bottle).

It’s hard to get a handle on the food here, when some dishes are quite elaborate, and others are homely. Flash-fried baby squid ($16) is strewn with dibs and dabs of harissa, crisp chickpeas, cucumber, fennel yoghurt and cucumber ribbons; while charred okra is simply tossed through burghul, anchovy and garlic – messy but moreish. The ubiquitous but always welcome beef cheeks ($32) are slow-cooked for 12 hours until nicely shreddy and fall-apart, then sent out with a squish of smoked eggplant puree, pickled carrots, roasted almonds and a dusting of traharna  (dried Turkish yoghurt and vegetable powder), finished with the braising juices. For dessert, a glass preserving jar holds a  ‘‘trifle’’ of wine-poached pear, port and red wine jelly, custard, semolina, almond and sesame crisps.

It’s heartening to see more of a food focus in our pubs, and Fitzgerald is clearly a multi-tasking talent, able to turn a hand to Greek, Mexican and Latin American almost simultaneously. But I’m left with a nagging sense that something is missing. This is food coming from a kitchen, rather than from a culture. It’s proficient and professional, and perfectly pleasant. But that’s the thing, all you clever marketeers out there – you can’t market-segment the soul.

The low-down

Best bit

Terrific Greek wine list.

Worst bit

Views of the shoppingmall.

Go-to-dish

Charred okra, burghul, anchovy and garlic, $16.

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500 Oxford Street, Bondi Junction, NSW

  • Cuisine - Greek
  • Prices - Cost About $110 for two, plus drinks
  • Features - Accepts bookings, Bar, Licensed
  • Chef(s) - Matt Fitzgerald
  • Opening Hours - Open Dinner, Tues-Sun, 6pm-10pm; lunch, Fri-Sun, noon-3pm
  • Author - Terry Durack
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