Street art meets street food ... at Bondi's Truck stop, Photo: Fiona Morris
Eat Art Truck, one of Sydney's new-wave food vans, hit the road in May, piloted by chef Stuart McGill. By September, it already had its own spinoff, a permanent pit stop in Bondi called Truck Stop.
The van is still on the road serving up food around the city, but McGill now divides his time between meals on wheels and his stationary venture in the Beach Road Hotel.
Truck Stop launched with a Japanese-American menu, but the former Tetsuya's sous chef has made changes to cater for appetites at the Bondi pub. Much of the Japanese influence has gone, though favourite dishes will still appear on the specials board, McGill says. The Americana comfort food remains. Buns are Truck Stop's thing, from po' boys to sloppy joes to ice-cream sandwiches. Yes, ice-cream sandwiched in a bun, not wedged between two biscuits. It's a calorific extravagance that tastes better than it sounds.
Thumbs up ... fried chicken and watermelon. Photo: Fiona Morris
The restaurant is on the first floor of the sprawling Beach Road Hotel, which has various dining options. It's a busy Friday night for the pub although not so for Truck Stop, until the pace picks up about 9.30pm. This could explain the menu tweak to include more pub grub.
Combining street art with great food is the motto of Eat Art Truck; it also applies to the more permanent structure, courtesy of designer Alex Zabotto-Bentley. His fitout includes a brightly coloured, graffiti-lined courtyard with a canopy of hanging plants, as well as a more graphic, black-and-white room. Retro touches include enamel mugs for water and vintage metal chairs. It's a bit Tuscan courtyard-meets-Manhattan laneway - homely with an edge.
The menu, with its southern touches, is fairly limited - buns, meat minus the buns, and sides. Plus an ice-cream sandwich or spider for dessert, all ordered at the counter. A prawn po' boy is a nod to New Orleans. I'm expecting individual prawns, coated and fried, but what arrives is a crumbed and fried prawn patty on a bun. It's enjoyable - the smoky patty is full of pieces of prawn - but hot sauce wouldn't have gone astray.
A special of blackened snapper has subtle Cajun spices that could be dialled up a bit. The hot-smoked pulled pork, full of bold smoke and spice flavours, needs no such enhancement. It comes with fresh cucumber pickles. Fried chicken with watermelon also gets a thumbs-up. It provides a great platform for the various chilli salts brought to the table when condiments are requested.
Some of the menu's highlights are the sides. The grilled corn bread is sweet, warm and moist, perfect for soaking up the pulled pork's lovely smoky sauce. The buttered rice, adorned simply with a few slices of pickled green chillies, proves the adage everything tastes better with butter. The only disappointment is the green chilli slaw, which oozes mayonnaise.
Truck Stop is still finding its feet - fingers crossed it does. Even in the middle of menu-changeover confusion there is a lot to like about this place. The food is designed and made with care, and served in relaxed surrounds - a good bet for a night when the drinks are flowing. And if a monthly Creole seafood cookout becomes a regular thing, as McGill hopes, I'll be back for an oyster po' boy and some boiled seafood, Louisiana-style.
Southern-style American street food with Cajun and Creole influences.
Good. A bun with a side, $10, or three buns, $15. Meat with a side, $18.
Prawn po' boy, hot-smoked pulled pork, fried chicken and watermelon, corn bread, buttered rice, ice-cream sandwich.
Level 1, Beach Road Hotel,
71 Beach Road, Bondi,
0439 841 008