I've eaten at The Hill Eatery in North Bondi about half a dozen times since it opened mid 2012 and have been impressed each time. I'd describe the food as traditional wholesome Mediterranean fare. Source and processing: What I find refreshing is that this is one of the very few restaurants in Sydney that expresses an interest in the source and processing of their food (and not just taste and presentation). As stated on their menu:
"Our produce is sourced in an ethical manner with a strong emphasis on farm to plate. We are believers in knowing the provenance of our food we serve to you in order to understand how it was reared or grown and treated between the farm and your plate. "
I LOVE that they only use olive oil in their cooking to the exclusion of vegetable oils other than the duck fat potatoes which, most regrettably, are cooked in a combination of duck fat and vegetable oil (why they don't just use duck fat to cook the potatoes remains one of life's greatest mysteries as well as tragedies...). If there are deep-fried food on their menu (which was the case over winter) these will be cooked in vegetable oils so avoid those.
I also LOVE that the meats are from locally sourced farms where the animals are grass-fed (as opposed to grain-fed) and hence more nutritional, ethical and sustainable.
I was told that the fresh produce is locally sourced and in substance is grown according to organic principles (eg unsprayed) even if not technically certified organic.
What's currently on the menu: The menu changes seasonally. Tonight we ordered a selection of the small share plates (a la Spanish tapas style) including lamb kofta, mushrooms wrapped in jamon iberico, grilled chorizo, grazing plate (of anchovies, gherkins, brazilian peppers, olives and sourdough bread), whole grilled prawns with sauce, heirloom carrots with labne cheese (priced at $9-14 each). The salad of broccoli, garden peas, spinach with mint and parmesan is my favourite side ($12). The pasta is made on the premises. Currently there are share plates for 2 people of seafood paella ($45) or roast whole lamb rump ($45). The big plates include Black Angus beef fillet ($33), slow cooked Berkshire pork belly ($33) and lentil and kefalograviera moussaka with Greek salad ($24). Gluten-free and dairy-free options are specifically noted on the menu. There is a seafood section of bowl of prawns ($24), grilled whiting with fennel salad ($26) and grilled salmon ($26). (Side note- virtually all salmon sold in Australian restaurants is farmed so I avoid this as an option due to what farmed salmon are fed and the appalling conditions in which they live).
I've never ordered the dessert but currently on the menu is a dark chocoalte tart with salted caramel, peanuts and vanilla gelato ($12), passionfruit posset with coconut tapioca and mango icecream ($12) and seasonal fruit popsicle on a stick (dairy-free) ($8).
I've been more impressed with the Hill's dinner menu than their brunch menu (the latter being a little too grain-heavy for me but there's still a few non-grain breakfast/lunch options for people like).
Taste: The food is always delicious. In particular the small plates and the main of slow cooked Berkshire pork belly never disappoint. A mate, Randall, said "that was one of the best meals I've ever had!" (and from a Melbournian, this stands for A LOT!)
Meal portions: fair to smallish. If you're an athlete or super hungry this might not be the place to dine, but for the average wholefoodie like me the size of the meals is nothing to complain about.
Price: On the whole I think the Hill is fair value for what you get. Tonight's bill came to $153 for 4 people including alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks, so $38 per person - which I think is pretty good value. Another time it came to $50 per head - 'tho that time a lot more alcohol was consumed :-)
Wine: all Australian wines are either organic or bio-dynamic. Tonight I had a couple glasses of the savingnon blanc which was delightful.
Atmosphere: It's got a earthy Bondi feel - sophisticated yet casual, warm and cosy, yet light and breezy. Rustic floor boards, poppies in tin pots, Turkish kilms on walls, dark wood panelling, tables inside and outside on pavement.
Bookings: On Friday nights it's jammed packed with a throng of Eastern suburbs beauties and unless you have a booking you might be relegated to eating at the bar which is not necessarily a bad option. On weeknights and at 6pm it's quiet which can be a good option if dining with kids. If North Bondi Italian down the road is full (as it often is) this is a great Plan B. No bookings required for weekday lunches. Just walk in.
Staff: super friendly (even if half the time they need to check back with the chef if you're pesky enough like me to ask questions about the menu). Not super attentive but, hey, I have to remind myself that I now live in Sydney and not Melbourne ;-)
Address: Shop 5, 39 Campbell Pde, North Bondi
Contact details: ph 9130 2200. www.thehilleatery.com
Opening hours: Monday- Friday from 12 noon for lunch. Weekends open from 8am for breakfast. Dinner 6-10pm.
Have you eaten at The Hill Eatery? What did you think? If you go, let me know what you think.