You may think that Bondi is already chock-a-block with great places to eat, drink and be merry, but that hasn’t stopped smart cookie Cam Northway from opening up a seriously cool new venue in North Bondi.
Rocker is a café / restaurant / bar that caters to locals and visitors all day long, starting with coffee and breakfast in the wee hours and staying open late to sling top-qual cocktails and proper dinners.
We caught up with Cam to get the low down.
What can guests expect from Rocker that’s different to what Bondi’s already got on offer?
What I love about Rocker is that it’s for everyone. No pretence, just a casual neighbourhood spot serving delicious food and drinks – all day. We’ve got the daily surf report listed up with the specials, so if you’re straight off the beach, that’s cool. We don’t want it to be too fussy.
We’ve tried to create a place that you can come with your family, for a date, a long-lunch. It’s the kind of place that you can come to everyday for a coffee and to read the paper or three times a week for dinner. It’s comfortable, its approachable and overall has a really nice vibe.
What’s the main focus in the food menu and what can we get excited about eating?
It’s definitely got European feel to it – it’s modern comfort food that’s coastal, wholesome, tasty and a bit of fun. It’s designed to be shared, approachable and will be constantly evolving.
The opening menu has a beef ragu with ox cheek, orange, thyme and parmesan; an orecchiette with clams, urchin and sea lettuce. Smaller plates include the likes of oysters with ginger and cucumber and school prawns with succulents.
If you’re coming for breaky make sure you order yourself the Bacon Sandwich. I promise you, it will be the first of many. We’ve also got a pretty special Bircher and selection of pastries on offer.
And with your strong background in cocktails, how will mixed drinks tie in with Darren & Stuart’s menu?
We don’t have an extensive cocktail list (currently 8) but every cocktail on the list is good and has earned its place. The drinks will echo the same sentiment of delicious simplicity and really let the flavours and ingredients shine. Like the food the cocktails will be constantly evolving.
It was important to us that the drinks be a core part of the whole guest experience and have approached both our wine and cocktail list with the same energy as the food. We’ve got cocktails that work with the food menus from brunch to dessert.
We’ve also included a cocktail into the dessert menu because we know it works just as well as the blue cheese or tart & ice-cream as the perfect end to a meal.
Any must-try cocktails off the menu? How will the venue be approaching classics?
I might be a little biased, but I think they are all worth a try. Cocktails are pretty personal; your mood, taste or the occasion you’re out for might all influence what you feel like drinking.
If you had to try one though, I’d order the house Negroni – its Regal Rogue Vermouth infused with Rosemary, Tanqueray 10 and Campari, and it’s delicious. It’s simple, recognisable and works whether you’re in for brunch, a night-cap or anything in between.
We’ve also got a take on an Old-Fashioned which stays true to the classic yet with a fun Rocker twist in the way that it’s served.
Tell us about how your time with well-loved drinks agency Sweet&Chilli has prepared you for a stand-alone venue.
The philosophy amongst the team at Sweet&Chilli is simple. A drink is not just a drink. It’s an experience.
It’s exactly the same way that I’ve approached Rocker. I didn’t want to just create a venue, I wanted to create a place that people would love to come to spend their time and enjoy great company, food and drink.
Sweet&Chilli is a full-service hospitality, brand and events consultancy that offers a unique range of services to the hotel and food & beverage industries. It’s given me the practical skills needed to launch a new venue on a tight deadline. It’s been great to take all of the things I’ve learned and apply it to my own project.
The whole team is pretty grateful to Sweet&Chilli, as well as the team working on the venue – it played a huge role in bringing the Rocker team together. My business partner, Ian Clark works with me at Sweet&Chilli and Darren and I actually met through a World Class event I was running for Diageo back in 2015.
You’ve got a dedicated somm on the team, what’s the cellar hold in store for us?
We’re pretty stoked to have award-winning sommelier Chris Morrison (formerly Guillaume) on-board and in charge of the wine list. Chris has captured the sustainable, shared, approachable and constantly evolving narrative behind the menu – and replicated it with the wine list which features smaller Australian producers and natural wines alongside more conventional drops.
You’ll be opening for breakfast, lunch and dinner – how will the menu evolve throughout the day?
If there is a unifying feel to the different menus it is their laid-back and simple vibe.
The menu evolves pretty organically as the day rolls on, we haven’t tried to be too fancy with it. Just the right kind of food for the right time of day.
We’ve also made sure that brunch kicks off early on the weekend because we all know that sometimes you need a cocktail before midday on a Sunday.
What is it about Bondi as a whole that makes it such a veritable hub of drinking, dining and hospitality?
It’s the combination of the people, the environment, the food and drinks and of course, the beach. It’s all about a lifestyle. Sitting in a café or bar, looking down the hill out to the water at sunset, full stomach, glass in hand, life feels pretty good.
Rocker is located at 5/39-53 Campbell Parade, Bondi NSW