Photo: Fiona Morris
Let's be honest. Lunch on a sunny Saturday in Bondi is not just about the food. Battered fish and soggy chips will do just fine, as long as they are eaten in a spot that overlooks sand, sea and perhaps a bronzed body or two.
The Hill Eatery has a view but, with a large front window that curves around the building from beachside to suburbia, not everyone can see it. From our perch on a tan leather banquette in a back corner, all that is visible through the glass is brick apartments and bitumen.
There is plenty to see inside, however. The owners, Sarah Hendriks, Michael Benson and Sam Smith, also run the nearby Porch and Parlour breakfast hot spot, and they know how to create an atmosphere.
Photo: Fiona Morris
The vaguely industrial fit-out is softened by thoughtful touches: a shelf above our banquette is lined with leafy, potted herbs. The tables are made from recycled timber.
The staff buzz from table to table, somehow managing to make denim aprons look cool. Thanks to Bondi's parking challenge, we arrive late. The waitress brushes aside our apology. ''Everything's relaxed on the weekend,'' she says.
As it turns out, this is a hospitable fib. Before long the place is packed, with chatter and laughter bouncing off the hard surfaces.
Photo: Fiona Morris
Next to us, a group of bearded young men order pork belly sandwiches all round. The baguettes stuffed with meat and apple coleslaw come on wooden boards, with a side of golden potatoes cooked in duck fat. Tempting as they look, we go for the share plates.
A medley of morsels, all fresh and not too fussy, arrives in shallow, rustic-looking dishes. Paella arancini larger than golf balls have a crunchy outer crust that gives way to moist, flavoursome rice; a saffron aioli is a new spin on an old favourite.
Crisp rounds of chorizo scattered with parsley have a warm chilli bite, but the jamon-wrapped field mushrooms steal the show. They come cut into thick batons, rather than whole, with a squeeze of lemon and little curls of sage. The succulent, fleshy mushrooms soak up the jamon's saltiness and the sage adds a delicate subtlety.
We are intrigued by the grilled sardines but there are none available today. Instead, the waitress offers tuna crusted in sesame seeds, with a tangy sweet-and-sour sauce. Just seared on the outside, the tuna slivers are pink-centred and meltingly soft.
The Hill Eatery is all about quality, sustainable produce and allowing good ingredients to speak for themselves. There is no messing about with a generous bowl of grilled prawns. Hot and tender, they beg to be unwrapped and dunked in an aioli that is just garlicky enough.
Every flavour sings in the falafel salad, a tumble of beetroot, avocado, tomato, rocket and tahini, with a fabulous texture from the crumbly falafels and a scattering of quinoa. It is a fresh and zesty way to end the meal - almost.
We can't resist the chocolate pot, which is rich and sweet but balanced with fresh strawberries, praline and salted crushed almonds.
Before the meal we had plans for an after-lunch walk, to compensate for missing out on the beach scenery. Now, we are content to sit and digest.
View? What view?
Menu Share plates and larger meals, with an emphasis on organic, sustainable produce.
Value Not cheap but excellent quality. Bar menu, $4-$18; lunch, $12-$32; dinner, $19-$45; dessert, $10-$22.
Recommended dishes Jamon-wrapped field mushrooms with lemon and sage; bowl of grilled prawns and aioli; chocolate pot.
THE HILL EATERY
Shop 5, 39-53 Campbell Parade, North Bondi, 9130 2200
Mon-Wed, 6-11pm; Thur-Sun, noon-11pm.
- Cuisine - Modern Australian
- Prices - Bar menu $4-$18, Lunch $12-$32, Dinner $19-$45, Dessert $10-$22
- Features - Licensed
- Opening Hours - Monday-Wednesday 6-11pm, Thursday-Sunday 12pm-11pm
- Author - Louise Schwartzkoff