by Rachel Olding
Address 249 Bondi Road, Bondi, 9130 1033
Open Tuesday-Thursday 6pm-midnight, Friday-Saturday 11am-midnight, Sunday 11am-11pm
Out with the squirrel and in with the dog. Bondi mourned the departure of much-loved tapas bar, The Flying Squirrel, about a year ago but in its place has come another little drinks 'n' dinner spot named after owner Aaron Pearce's much-loved pooch.
Fat Rupert's predecessor was a scarlet-lit bar packed with bric-a-brac. Now, it's a much simpler corner spot decorated rather plainly with dark wood finishes and a row of tables down one side of the slender room.
There's little making it stand out in this increasingly colourful end of Bondi Road and it has taken a while for Fat Rupert's to find its feet and break out of the Squirrel's shadow.
Pearce said they transformed it from a bar with tapas to a more food-based bar with good drinks.
It's just as well because the food is beaut but the drinks are nothing to bark about.
The cocktails are still struggling to cut it in this bar-rich area. A Gardenia Bellini (Hendrick's gin, granny smith apples, cucumber, elderflower, Campagnola Arnaces Prosecco, $17) isn't nearly as fragrant or flavoursome as it sounds and the Bondi Zombie (spiced and white rum, pineapple juice, fresh passionfruit, fresh lime juice, gingerbread syrup, tabasco, $17) isn't as potent or robust as I'd hoped.
A small handful of interesting craft beers and ciders are a better option. The Lick Pier Ginger Beer (from Doss Blockos Pale Lager brewers East 9th Brewing Company, $13) is refreshingly dry rather than sickly sweet and we eye off a UK-born Henneys Frome Valley Cider ($13.50) and easy-drinking Moondog Lovetap Lager ($9).
Wines cover some interesting drops from hidden corners of the globe. With no help from our waitress, we blindly pick a lush Protocolo tempranillo from Rioja, Spain, to go with a meal of rich meats and Mediterranean flavours.
Char-grilled cauliflower with hummus and pecorino ($15) and juniper-braised lamb shank with quinoa tabouleh and zucchini yoghurt ($27) are the top picks from chef Eli Challenger's menu of big and small share plates.
And it may seem a tad out of place but the Pepe Saya buttermilk fried chicken with potato puree, coleslaw and honey butter is superb. Tender, crispy and a cut above the gluggy imitations at all those American-themed joints.
Dishes come out one-by-one, even a side salad or plate of vegies, and everything except the beef sliders is gluten free.
There's not a huge selection for vegos unless you count the cheesecake as a meal - and you probably should. A decadent slice comes in a different flavour each week and is drowned in outrageous toppings for $15. Cinnamon and honey cheesecake with granola praline, salted caramel and chai poached pear one week, Kahlua cheesecake with toasted hazelnut and espresso popcorn the next.
A few little standouts will draw hungry, thirsty diners but Rupert may need to do more to thrive in this dog-eat-dog part of town.
YOU'LL LOVE IT IF... you're hunting for a low-key neighbourhood bar in Bondi
YOU'LL HATE IT IF... you only try the cocktails
GO FOR... Pepe Saya buttermilk fried chicken, Lick Pier Ginger Beer, Protocolo tempranillo
IT'LL COST YOU... cocktails $17, wine by the glass $9-$12, large plates $22-$27, bottled beer $7-$15