251 Bondi Rd Bondi Junction, NSW 2022
|Opening hours||Tue-Thu 3pm-11pm; Fri noon-11pm; Sat-Sun 9am-11pm|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Phone||02 9130 2894|
"Bringgggg, bringgggg! Bringgggg, bringgggg!" I can't remember the last time I heard the sound of a rotary-dial phone.
It was probably the last time anyone said the words "throw us the TV guide" or "gee, that John Farnham looks good for his age".
But, here it is at a buzzing new bar and restaurant in Bondi, shrilling like a fire alarm over the sounds of Curtis Mayfield and clinking glasses.
"Sure, brother," says co-owner Jerome Wallcroft to a caller on the other end. "We can absolutely fit you in. Come on down."
Ode is a collaboration between old mates Wallcroft and Jeremy Moyle, designer Benedict Maurice (who also works the floor) and chef Ben Abiad, last spotted leading the kitchen at Dear Sainte Eloise in Potts Point. It's a place that can facilitate one negroni ($19) or a five-hour dinner and on the weekend there's eggs and Iggy's toast for breakfast ($11).
The team spent three months using their own hands to build the restaurant's fit-out from scratch, lending a back-to-basics vibe transcending the vintage phone.
The handsome bar and tabletops have been upcycled using 200-year-old blue gum salvaged from a forgotten wharf and the seats are more comfortable than small timber chairs have a right to be. Soft, orange light adds to the homely vibe.
There's proper value here, partly because the DIY carpentry means you're not paying for the (supposed) privilege of sitting in a lavish dining room and partly because Ode is on that top part of Bondi Road with views to nail salons instead of the beach. Mostly, however, it's because Abiad is a generous bloke who likes to feed people.
The cooking is smart, but never too clever for its own good, and the chef changes the menu daily based on what fruit and vegetables are at their prime. Best hurry if you're keen on the idea of navel oranges sharpened by thinly sliced salad onion, shaved fennel, olives and thyme ($13).
House-baked focaccia ($5) is a perfect companion to many dishes. Springy, golden and salty, you absolutely want it riding shotgun with stracciatella covered in freshly podded peas, fried pancetta and pangrattato ($18). A tangy salmoriglio of olive oil, lemon and garlic brings the dish together and it's what bread-swiping dreams are made of.
Ten mussels – count 'em – are layered across a slice of charred sourdough spread with a healthy lick of aioli and invigorated by pickled celery. It's your snack to share for $11. Sweet and chubby scallops (three for $9) are gently cooked over a charcoal hibachi grill and lifted by a bruised paste of rosemary and anchovies, while shucked-to-order Merimbula oysters weigh in at $4 a pop.
Braised octopus ($17) is something of a menu constant, with fractally legs glistening in a deeply flavoured bolognese-based sauce spiked with 'nduja. Again, have that focaccia at the ready. House-made pasta is usual and delicious suspect, too – cacio e pepe ($25) bolstered by sardines lightly cured in salt and sugar, say, or bouncy orecchiette with a white-wine-based lamb ragu and fresh marjoram ($27).
Dry-aged rump steak freshened by horseradish ($30) is the most substantial item on the carte and it's brilliant on a crisp night with something young, red and Italian from the all-natural wine list.
There's also many drops with enough vigour to be enjoyed by themselves – check the 2016 Fricando Albana ($20/$83) from Emilia-Romagna if it's going. Orange, savoury, herbal and wild.
God knows the last time I was excited about panna cotta, but Abiad's riff on the dessert is a doozy. A milky hunk of pudding with backbeats of cardamom and fennel seed, spooned straight from the tray and scattered with candied yuzu and chopped pistachio.
It's the kind of thing made for Averna and falling asleep in front of the telly with. It's also only $10.
Ode joins other Sydney venues such as Continental Deli, Poly, Monopole and Love, Tilly Devine that don't just blur the line between restaurant and bar, they dissolve it completely.
The tables can be a little pokey, sure, but honest food, booze and service are at the core of hospitality and Ode has all three in spades. Phone a friend, pals, and come on down.
Vegetarian: Four small share plates and one pasta
Drinks: 60-strong wine list focused on Australian, French and Italian drops made with minimal intervention
Go-to dish: Stracciatella with peas, pancetta, salmoriglio and pangrattato, $18
Pro tip: Anyone who isn't a fan of noise in restaurants might like to request one of the quieter streetside tables
This rating is based on the Good Food Guide scoring system.