Topikos review

The Bondi Beach Public Bar has been de-pubbed, bringing bar and restaurant closer together.
The Bondi Beach Public Bar has been de-pubbed, bringing bar and restaurant closer together. Photo: James Alcock

180 Campbell Parade Bondi Beach, NSW 2026

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Opening hours Dining room Wed-Fri 5-10pm; Sat-Sun noon-10pm; Bar Wed-Fri 4pm-10pm; Sat-Sun noon-10pm
Features Views, Romance-first date, Licensed, Bar, Accepts bookings, Wheelchair access, Outdoor seating
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Phone 02 9132 5777

What do we have here, then, a restaurant or a bar? It's 2022, so it's both. An internal wall of windows is all that separates the corner bar from the dining room at Topikos, and the dynamics of one inform the other. What it isn't, is a pub.

"Yeah, we've de-pubbed it," says Brett Robinson of Shell House and The Dolphin. "Bondi doesn't need another pub."

Not that the Bondi Beach Public Bar originally set up by Robinson with Maurice Terzini was your typical backstreet boozer – far from it. But even the bar now has long share tables set with simple plates and soft linen napkins; a silent invitation to those who want to eat, and an equally silent dis-invitation to those who just want to drink.

House-made pita with taramasalata.
House-made pita with taramasalata. Photo: James Alcock

Me, I want to do both. But I particularly want to eat the pita flatbread, slow-proved, brushed with garlic oil and puffed-up in the 400C wood-fired oven. And I want to surround it with dips and grills and salads so that I can just dip and dive and swipe and spread until I stop.

The Greeks nailed eating by the sea about 1000 years ago. No straitjackets and hierarchy; just lots of small, lemony dishes to dive into like a seagull skimming the waves, while you drink, talk, gossip and dawdle through your dining. Who wouldn't want whipped eggplant dip, saganaki cheese with pepper and honey, and tomato and halloumi salad next to the sand and the sea?

The bar, with its windows thrown open to the street, is a great spot to hang out over a simple pork souvlaki ($16) and Fix-like Vergina beer. Next door, the dining room doesn't yet have its vibe nailed, but it's light and bright, with a cool '70s thing going on. You can put a very Mykonos-meets-Bondi dinner together with pita bread ($6) and a smooth, rich, creamy taramasalata strewn with glistening pearls of Yarra Valley salmon caviar ($14). Add a glass of 2019 Jason Ligas x Vin du Pont "Greek Collection" muscat/assyrtiko ($18/$120) from the Aegean island of Samos for its citrussy, almost briny skin-contact character.

Deep-fried Fremantle whitebait dusted in espelette pepper.
Deep-fried Fremantle whitebait dusted in espelette pepper. Photo: James Alcock

Then add crisp, fleshy little deep-fried Fremantle whitebait dusted in espelette pepper, ready to dive into preserved lemon aioli ($14). And keftedes ($16), the small beef and pork meatballs coming with tzatziki.

Robinson has put a top-heavy team on the job, from interior stylist Anna Hewett, to the Point group's culinary director Joel Bickford, exec chef Danny Corbett and group food and beverage director, Alex Kirkwood.

At the coalface is head chef, Charles Woodward (Pilu at Freshwater, Cottage Point Inn) and restaurant manager Nick Ingall, a familiar face from years managing The Apollo. Old Bondi hand, Andy Ruwald (Sejuiced, Bucket List) is also on the case, kept busy mentoring junior staff. "I did 17,000 steps in here yesterday," he says. That's 14 kilometres.

Calamari over the coals served with its own inky black sauce.
Calamari over the coals served with its own inky black sauce. Photo: James Alcock

There's a wood-roasted beetroot dish bedded down with farro and whipped feta ($18) that's even better than the coal-roasted beetroot with blueberry vinegar at Shell House Dining Room; don't miss it. And I like the idea of placing calamari over the coals ($18) until it's the texture of warm sashimi, then serving it with its own inky black sauce and (very) fiery Calabrian chillies.

If you have the numbers, there's slow-cooked lamb shoulder with pomegranate glaze and wood-roasted, honey-glazed chicken on nutty hummus to share. Even dessert is a sharing-is-caring cast iron pan of freckled and speckled melopita, ($16), a fabulous baked cheesecake rich with ricotta, cream cheese and Cretan fermented honey.

Greek food is the perfect call for Bondi, being sociable, easy, gather-around, dip-in-and-out food; democratic enough to work across both bar and restaurant without fuss. Topikos (the very name means local) is an acknowledgement that Bondi is changing, and that the locals are looking for something more than just a pub. They got it.

Melapita baked Greek cheesecake.
Melapita baked Greek cheesecake. Photo: James Alcock

The low-down

Topikos Dining Room and Bar

Vibe Greek island neo-taverna washed up on Bondi Beach

Go-to dish Taramasalata ($14) with pita bread ($6)

Drinks Vergina Greek beer, lively cocktails and wide-ranging wine list with a focus on Greece and Italy

Terry Durack is chief restaurant critic for The Sydney Morning Herald and senior reviewer for the Good Food Guide. This rating is based on the Good Food Guide scoring system.