The menu at Bondi & Bourke looks pretty straightforward. Familiar items like burgers, pasta, steaks, and salads jump from the pages. The menu also reveals what the restaurant is about, as it lists parmas and meat pies among its offerings.
“The concept,” says Wade Watson, its owner-chef, “is to bring Australian comfort food to Manila.”
Another look at the menu tells us, while some parts might feel like unchartered territory, this is a culinary experience that should be uncomplicated to explore and enjoy.
Bondi & Bourke is tucked in Legaspi Village’s Salcedo Street, a cozy nook with a touch of rustic elegance and an airy, welcoming vibe.
“There’s nothing fancy about this restaurant,” Wade assures us. “No foams, no jellies.”
Hefty servings and shared meals
What one can expect, to begin with, are large servings. You either come with the biggest appetite – or come with friends to split the dishes with. The chicken parmigiana (“parma”), for example, consists of three chicken breasts “covered in ham and cheese and tomato sauce” which is recommended for two but can be shared by more, depending on appetite. The salads can easily be split between four persons, should they choose one for starters.
“I definitely lean towards sharing,” affirms Wade. “The food on the menu is just simple things: they’re fresh, they’re huge, they’re tasty. I strongly believe in fresh herbs and fresh products.”
The big sizes can easily justify what looks like a higher price point than other restaurants (the parmas go from P895++, the salads P495++, pastas P495++). Split the meal and you get your money’s worth already.
But that’s just accounting. The food itself shines because of the exacting way Wade ensures the quality of the dishes that come out of the kitchen and are placed on your table.
Simply delicious food
He explains, “I’m not trying to reinvent food here by any means. I’m not trying to do anything different. I’m just trying to do simple things well. I believe a lot of people can’t do the simple things well.”
It’s a loaded statement, but if you meet Chef Wade you realize that what you see is what you get. He’s a frank man who means what he says and asks that you trust his decisions when you decide you want him to cook for you.
And why shouldn’t you? Wade Watson brings his background as a chef who has worked in fine dining kitchens all over to Bondi & Bourke — not to recreate a stiff, dressed up affair, but to instill the discipline and knowledge it takes to create an impressive dining experience. That Australian Burger on the menu? You can be sure it’s not any regular kind. When it says it has everything on it, be ready to consume a decked-out carnivore’s delight with well-seasoned patty as its centerpiece.
At Bondi & Bourke, the food is uncomplicated, sure. Each dish is designed to make the ingredients shine, a task that is not as simple as it sounds.
Take for instance one of its popular items: the Prime Rib. The chef recommends it. In fact, he says, “I have a very good reputation for Prime Rib. I’m very particular about my steaks. Am I a steakhouse? No. Do I specialize in steaks? No. But I strongly believe I have some of the best steaks in Manila.”
It starts with selecting the meat: US Prime, that has the perfect fat content and marbling to make a good steak. From there, “I just cook it right,” he insists. “I don’t mess with it. I don’t play with it. I put salt and pepper on it, I prop it on the griddle. I rest it for a very long time. I slice it. I put it on a plate.”
It sounds too simple, we protest.
It is, he responds. The result is on that plate: juicy, well-cooked meat that does not hide under a slathering of gravy nor one that needs art-directed plating to entice the diner. It beckons with audacious boldness and many are more than delighted to partake in it.
Australian comfort food
But what exactly are we biting into? Everything sounds familiar and tastes familiar – but not really. That’s because Australian fare is a reflection of the immigrant culture it houses down under. So what exactly is Australian food?
“That’s the million dollar question,” Wade acknowledges. He gives us a quick cultural lesson. “Australia has so many immigrants. Everyone’s a descendant of Lebanese, Greek, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, etc. The Middle Eastern has a very strong presence in Australia. You will get better Middle Eastern food in Australia than what you will in the Middle East – I guarantee it.”
Somewhere along the culinary way, Australians didn’t just adopt foreign cuisine, they made it their own.
For instance, “The meat pie, which Australia made famous, it derives from the British. Fish and chips, very Australian, it derives from the British. Chicken Parmigiana, it’s Italian, which the Australians cook and make, I would say, with more flavors. They added ham, they added some different toppings, things like that. America has prawn cocktail, just with a different sauce. Theory is the same, it’s that Americans have red ketchup-based cocktail sauce, and Australians have a Sauce Marie Rose, which is a French sauce, which is ketchup, mayonnaise, Worcestershire, Tabasco. More flavor.”
Australian food, then, is food from all over the world, given their own take on things. A lamb roast in Oz will not be the same as a lamb roast in the UK.
Chef Wade, interestingly, grew up eating Lebanese food at his neighbor’s home. In a way, an Australian’s food memories can be tied to the particular kitchens one had visited growing up.
At Bondi & Bourke, however, Chef Wade sticks to the staples. It’s a good introduction for the Manila food scene and it’s a reminder of home to the Australian expats who find their way to the restaurant. Here, they happily consume their meat pies, their Oysters Kilpatrick, their Australian Parm.
The rustic, casual vibe at Bondi & Bourke encourages diners to consider it as an any day choice; it doesn’t need to be for a special occasion or as a destination option.
But should you want to celebrate an event or host a special gathering, a private dining room that seats up to 30 people comfortably is available.
A base menu is provided and the chef is willing to work with you to customize it according to your preferences – within reason, of course.
The main dining area of the restaurant tends to be full for both lunch and dinner. While one can walk in and wait for a table, you might want to call in a reservation just to be safe. Saturdays are especially busy, we’re told.
And whatever reason brought your through their doors, there is one goal in mind.
Chef Wade proclaims, “I want them to go out the door saying: That was great, I can’t wait to go back. That’s it.”
Bondi & Bourke
Mondays to Saturdays, 11:00am – 10:00pm
G/F Cattleya Condominium, Salcedo Street, Legaspi Village, Makati City
Tel: +632 833 1812 / Mobile: +63 998 840 6268
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