'Go big or go home' seems to be the theme of all the great eats at this new restaurant where Chef Wade Watson whips up authentic, down-home comfort food of his home country, Australia.
"You can't put it really in a nutshell," the chef begins, as he shares about Australian food. "Australia is so broad, we've got every ethnic group in the world. Having said that, we have things like meat pies, which are obviously derived from the English, like everything that's sort of Australian. Meat pies, parmas, shepherd's pie which again is very English. We have a lot of meat and a lot of seafood."
It's a real mix, Chef Wade explains, but the Aussie essentials are what Manila folk can look forward to when they dine at Bondi&Bourke in Legazpi Village. Australian staple food like lamingtons, meat pies, parmas (chicken parmigiana), surf and turf, and burgers are in store for the hungry customers. "It's a real melting pot of different things," says the chef, "and Australians are eating healthier right now so there's a lot of salads on our menu as well."
To present these Australian staples, Chef Wade wants nothing but the best produce and ingredients possible. "It's still very challenging, but I always want to keep the menu fresh," he says. His promise is to never downsize on quality while upscaling the heft of every dish. "I don't like small portions of food–I eat 'cause I eat," he tells me, "even our soups are big." How's that for you, hungry foodie? Those words are music to my hungry-girl ears, I have to say.
If you're down for supersized dishes, perfectly cooked meats, and straight-up delicious grub, then head to Bondi&Bourke in Makati very, very hungry — and armed with equally hungry companions for some serious Aussie eats.
Upon first look, The Australian Burger (P685) is something straight-up hungry caveman food. 'Everything the Australian way' is its description written on the menu, and the way of the Aussie is a giant burger piled with a thick ground prime beef patty with Swiss cheese clinging on top, followed by layers of bacon, fried egg, and prime strip steak. Adding color, fresh crisp, and less guilt due to their vegetable nature are caramelized onions, pickled beets, lettuce, and tomato. It's just stuff of epic meal time, and must be eaten with your hands (but slice it first to make it more accessible), with jaws eager and wide open to get each and every layer inside your mouth.
Next to arrive on our table was the biggest serving of Chicken Parmigiana (fondly called 'Parma' or 'Chicken Parm' or 'Parmi') I have ever had to tackle with my fork and knife. It was bigger tham my palm—heck, even bigger than my face! "A classic parm is always with sauce, cheese, ham and mozzarella," Chef Wade says.
All parmas at Bondi&Bourke are good for sharing, use free-range chicken, and prepared with Savino's sauce, shaved ham, and fresh mozzarella. Every plate of the oversized chicken dish is served with a side of garden salad or hand-cut fries, just how it is enjoyed in Australia. Chef Wade's Classic Australian (P795) was a slab of chicken that was delightfully juicy, with a golden crisp crust smothered with a generous topping of Savino's sauce, mozzarella, and padano. A layer of forest ham peeks underneath the crust with every slice, and each mouthful of the classic parm is a joy to eat — cheesy, tomatoey, meaty, juicy. Other parmas include Mediterranean (P825) which is topped with Kalamata olives , fresh basil, marinated feta, crisp capers, and lemon; and Garden (P845) which has sautéed mushrooms, grilled artichoke, dressed arugula, and almonds.
Bondi&Bourke's Australian Classic Pies are made fresh daily and thus takes time; selections available only when choice ingredients are on hand. Every pie, just like their parma, is served with a side of fries or green salad.
If there's someting distinctly Aussie about the pies, it's how they eat them — with ketchup. "You put ketchup in a pie, if you don't, you shouldn't be eating a pie!" the chef educates me. Served fresh off the oven, the Classic Steak (P475) pie is golden, the puff pastry's edges sporting a toasty glow. Slicing up the pie is enough to make one's mouth water, as a pocket of air from the inside is released, its steam of aroma — meaty, beefy, savory goodness — teasing your nose as you maneuver your fork and knife to serve yourself a good mouthful of beef and pastry.
Salty-sweet, savory braised Australian beef is laced with sweet onions, the hot pie filling colliding with chunks of the flaky pie pastry. Every mouthful of the steak pie makes me wonder—how come we don't have much savory pies in the metro? Bondi&Bourke currently offers five kinds of pies, the other four being Cottage (P525) with braised beef ragout, a Steak and Bacon (P485), Steak and Mushroom (P485), and Steak and Cheese (P475) with garlic onion jam.
For true steak appreciation, the chef wants to make the meat the star by letting the flavors speak for itself. "Salt and pepper, that's it," he says. On the side, Wade serves some mustard and also Béarnaise sauce because he much prefers this French condiment than gravy.
His U.S. Prime Rib Eye (P1,595/350g) is accompanied by a bed of roasted asparagus, mustard, and Béarnaise. Devouring a steak for me, when it is really good, is simply all about the beef–and this rings true for Bondi&Bourke, as each juicy and pink slice was succulent enough not to need any of the sauces and accoutrements.
"The food is not fancy, it's simple food," Chef Wade Watson shares about his new restaurant, "I'm just trying to do what I do really well." Just as down-home and comforting as his savory spread of Australian favorites is his spread of desserts. While the lineup of sweet treats (and pricing) is not yet final, what we have sampled that afternoon was simply delightful and begging for more forkfuls and spoonfuls served straight to the mouth.
"Sticky Date Pudding is again another staple on Australian dessert menus,"Chef Wade says, "they're all kind of derived from the English. There's lemon meringue, pavlova which isn't on the menu–but we'll have that soon." There's Chocolate Pudding, Lemon Meringue, Cheesecake, Lamingtons in strawberry and chocolate flavors (lemon is a crowd pleaser)—and more, the menu changes day to day, so if your craving for sweets is very particular, best to call the restaurant before visiting to make sure your sweets of choice is available. The chef explains that the bakery aspect of Bondi&Bourke will be on full swing once they have gained their momentum, so we can look forward to a display of Australian baked goods and more selection for dessert.
Visit Bondi&Bourke at the ground level of Cattleya Condominium Building, Salcedo Street, Legaspi Village, Makati. The restaurant is open from Monday to Saturday, 11am to 10pm. Call +632 833 1812, +63 998 840 6268, connect on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (bondibourkeph).