Brown Sugar: A Review
It is satisfying to know that hidden away from the tourist invaded beachfront of Bondi is a place where the locals know the food tastes as good as the name on the door.
A cool café by day, Brown Sugar impresses with great coffee and a relaxed vibe. By night it turns into a trendy, sleek restaurant with fantastic food and a friendly atmosphere.
You know you are in for a sweet treat when the kitsch décor of luminous jam jars is filled with lolly coloured water and you can see the chefs having a good time in a small and busy kitchen. While many Bondi cafes succeed in their breakfast and lunch scenes- it’s the trickier dinner service that we were there to sample and review.
The duck liver parfait with pear salsa is one of the best I have ever tasted. Smooth and light with perfect precision of seasoning. Unlike some parfaits this one is not drowned by the bitterness of brandy or the stodginess that gelatine can add. Instead you enjoy the richness of the duck livers. The parfait is accompanied by caramelised onion, sea salt, finely chopped chives that and golden yellow cubes of tart pear. These are the elements that create the ideal balance of seasoning. My dining companions are also pleased by the plentiful amount of char grilled toast that comes with it.
The crispy school prawns are next on our list. While we enjoy the food we somehow feel, as we look around the busy room, that we are somewhat like these prawns before they became our meal. Space is a luxury at Brown Sugar.
We arrive on a busy night and are seated in the corner. I am not sure how they do it, but the waiters manage to fill every square inch of the place, so much that they even find it hard to shuffle through the crowds themselves. Nevertheless diners have smiles on their faces so we move our focus back to our food which doesn’t take long to come - keeping in the back of our minds that we should feel fortunate as we are seated next to the open large windows.
The school prawns are cooked whole and one is suggested to eat them that way, head included. Chef Neil Gottheiner’s training at Darley Street Thai shines through. The prawns are light and crisp, reliant on a light batter and temperature of the oil. The salty crunchy exterior contrasted to the sweet succulent meat classically matched with a saffron aioli. The aioli itself is a gem. Delicately flavoured it’s refreshing, hinted by the fruitiness of a good olive oil – exactly what a quality aioli should taste like.
The angel hair pasta with blue swimmer crab and semi sun-dried tomatoes is simple and comforting. A light tomato and saffron based sauce delicately coats the pasta strands, while the flakes of sweet crab are sufficient. This dish has a beautiful flavour from use of good produce.
Brown Sugar defiantly seems to attract the locals to come back. This may be why their black board will always have familiar staples. Their duck confit is classically cooked and served with grilled or baked fruits which are in season. On our visit it is served with a crisp potato rosti paired with thyme and grilled pears and hazelnuts.
The fish pie is another staple on the menu and is one that will not leave anytime soon. Individual ramekins house snapper, leeks and caramelised onion in a ‘soup’ of cream, white wine and truffle oil. The fish is decadently hidden below a golden dome of house made buttery puff pastry. Alone this fish pie is a delight as the creamy fish ‘soup’ waits to be mopped up by the crisp pastry. To newcomers unannounced mash potato is served alongside the pie. Although a delightful touch especially when mixed into the fish to make the sweetest mash you will ever eat, I do feel that it should be mentioned on the menu, so diners can enjoy the complete glory of this dish, mash and all.
Ocean trout with fattoush salad, za’atar and labne sounds straightforward on the board, however this dish is a confident reworking on classic themes. The fattoush salad is light and bursting with flavours such as dill, basil, coriander and mint alongside the traditional parsley, crisp bread and cherry tomatoes. This dish displays that the chefs at Brown Sugar know what they are doing, and continue do it well. The homemade labne is soft and tart, well combined with the sweet oily flesh of the ocean trout.
With a name like Brown Sugar you would make sure that your dessert menu was nothing but sweet and worthy of the name. The tiramisu is pleasant with a good measure of coffee and mascarpone. The caramelised banana cheesecake is rich and creamy with a candy like banana flavour that you can only get when bananas have been caramelised with brown sugar. The rich bananas are happily paired with a light chocolate sorbet.
Although the buttermilk panna cotta with strawberry compote was slightly too soft and started to melt on the plate, it still tasted great - a slightly sour smooth panna cotta with ever so sweet and fragrant strawberries.
Brown Sugar knows how to sweeten up your night with comfort food with style that you know is good for you sole.
106 Curlewis Street
Breakfast and Lunch Wednesday- Sunday
Dinner Tuesday- Saturday