Penthouse Restaurant Review: Rocker, Bondi
Looking for a relaxed spot for Sunday roast? Or Taco Tuesday With A View? Rocker’s got it all going on!
Rock up to Rocker in North Bondi with an appetite for something wholesome and tasty, and you’ll find plenty of options to keep everyone satisfied.
Rocker’s been perched on the hill since 2017, serving up a European inspired menu as well as drinks and snacks.
The name ‘Rocker’ stands for the curve of a surfboard, which is fitting as you can enjoy glimpses of the beach, and rock up in board shorts fresh from the surf.
The trendy, laid-back restaurant is open all day for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. It’s co- owned by chef Stuart Toon (a Jamie Oliver recruit) and Darren Robertson (former head chef at Tetsuya’s and co-owner at Three Blue Ducks), Cameron Northway and Ian Clark (Sweet&Chilli and Cocktail Porter).
Penthouse sat down with Stuart to talk food, inspiration and his European roots…
You did one of the first Masterchef TV shows in the UK, didn’t you?
Yes! I’m actually from Cheltenham in England. I started work as a butcher and then went on Masterchef when I was 18. I got to the final 20.
How did you end up in Bondi?
When I arrived in Australia I actually travelled round five states in two years, I was super nomadic, then Bondi felt like home. Darren used to live round the corner so knows the area well, and when Cam saw the venue was available he got straight on the phone!
It’s a smaller venue than some of the others you’ve worked in…
Yes, we’d all done big things, mostly for other people, so wanted to make Rocker quite personal. The whole team here is pretty closely connected, and we opened with a blank canvas, intending to adapt to what the community wanted. It was important to us to adapt, change and grow in terms of what locals actually want.
Being nimble as a business must have come in handy during COVID?
Absolutely. We’ve transitioned to focus on lunch and dinner but we still do small breakfast offerings that run all day.
Your menu has a strong European feel, tell me about that…
My dad’s mum is Latvian, dad’s dad is Scottish, mum’s dad is French, mum’s mum is Italian… and she was born in Egypt! So, I grew up with a wide range of culinary influences. My grandma was the main food influence as I was growing up. She’d often be up at 4am making fresh pasta to serve to a huge table of family and friends. She used old-school hand slicers, hand mincers, things she was given by her own mum.
So you were very young when you started cooking?
I was tiny! Looking back at the food I made on Masterchef, it was pretty tacky, the kind of stuff you look at and think a fancy chef would come up with! Jamie Oliver’s done so much to transform the industry; it’s a viable career option now. Kids see these TV chefs that they want to be when they grow up. It wasn’t like that 20 years ago when I was starting out. It’s also become a much more fair workplace than it used to be.
That’s important to you?
Workplace culture is a real focus for us here at Rocker. I did long hours when I was starting out, it was brutal. I learned a lot technically working with Jamie, but the main thing I took away was the passion, the belief and the culture of being supported in the workplace. Staff morale is really important here and we tend to retain our staff for several years, which is always a clear way of seeing if the workplace is working well.
Does Rocker focus on using local suppliers?
Yes, we go to Flemington markets ourselves at 5am each week to buy produce direct from growers, we buy our lamb direct from a lamb farmer, and we use three of four suppliers for our seafood. Everything at Rocker is homemade. We offer quality food in a dressed down atmosphere. People come one day after a surf, another day on a date with their girlfriend, then on Sunday they’ll come for drinks with friends. We cater for the local community and have a lot of return regulars.
What’s Rocker best known for?
Roast potatoes – we have a big rep for our roast potatoes here! People come for our roast craving proper gravy, good ingredients, a taste of home… and that’s what they get!
Rocker Bondi, 5/39-53 Campbell Parade, North Bondi, NSW 2026. Tel +61 0451 845269. Open 7 days (Mon & Tues 3pm – late, Wednesday 3pm (all you can eat mussels), Thursday & Friday 12pm to late).