North of Bondi
- Henry Hepburn
- 22 May 2008
Far Eastern promise
With a menu devoted to crisp, authentic flavours and the determination to rise above the mediocre, North of Bondi looks set to become a cornerstone of West End dining, finds Henry Hepburn
Nik Biok disgorges the word with evident distaste. ‘It’s not fusion,’ he insists. To the chef-proprietor of new Glasgow venture North of Bondi, the distinction is clear: fusion is a euphemism for ingredients that don’t go together; his place is an authentic culinary tour of Southeast Asia.
It’s more than an idle boast. Biok is an Aussie – from Bondi Beach itself – but spent much of his childhood in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. This is his attempt to recreate the pungency and vitality of the region with a quintessentially Antipodean lack of frippery, the sort of place that’s a staple of the restaurant scene down under but a novel approach in Scotland.
Biok, once of Bar Soba and Mama San, is a partner in the group that used to run Baby Grand in the Byres Road premises North of Bondi now occupies. It did well at weekends, but, with a reputation for pricey elegance, fell eerily silent during the week. This is, after all, Partick Cross, where West End primness gives way to a glut of pubs for serious drinkers, and a disdain for pretentiousness seems a better long-term bet. So it has proved: the promise of innovation and affordability in an easygoing setting is pulling in at least several dozen covers every night, including, tellingly, plenty of Australians.
The menu is characterised by crisp, clean flavours, largely unblighted by excess chilli or oil, and entirely free of MSG. There is integrity too in the approach to fish: it appears only on the specials board, and if there’s nothing worth taking back from the market, it will not feature at all. Skewers packed with pork satay balance a fresh lime-leaf infusion with a delicately sticky glaze while sweet ginger plums provide optional extra zing. Huge, flying saucer-like, al dente ravioli of lobster competes with feisty, creamy, curry leaf coconut sauce. Not everything works however: charred, spongy skewers of crispy-fried Korean sirloin beef with red onion rings sit unappealingly alongside perky curries and bright salads.
At the time of writing, a new wine list better reflecting Biok’s origins was about to be unveiled, including sparkling reds and plenty of by-the-glass options.
Takeaways of à la carte dishes in New York-style dainty cardboard boxes are providing an appealing – if less filling – alternative to the Friday night ritual of tinfoil and luminescent curry, and an exciting and extensive weekend brunch menu has blueberry pancakes and smoked salmon brioche jostling alongside pan-Asian favourites.
North of Bondi has a clear sense of purpose and determination to rise above the mediocre that, if it manages to turn every dish into a guaranteed hit, could make it a cornerstone of West End dining.
2 Byres Road, Glasgow, 0141 337 1145, www.northofbondi.com.
Brunch, lunch, dinner and take away menus
Average two-course meal £15. Open 7 days