My friend Gibbo aka Ranty McRanterson is a woman of extremes. Her day job is as a freelance marketing/strategy/project manager. Her life job is to rant, encourage people to quit unfulfilling jobs and prioritise what’s important to her. Namely, sleeping and drinking.
Gibbo’s extremes include being simultaneously lazy and hardworking. Snowed under juggling two freelance jobs this year, Gibbo only resurfaced in recent weeks to socialise again with the world. Her birthday was in early May and we finally celebrated it last Thursday at Bodega tapas bar.
I drove that night and picked up Gibbo on the way to Bodega. We made great time and I scored a rockstar carpark close to the restaurant. Still early and waiting for Kitty to arrive, I was lurking outside looking in the windows. Trying to take a sneaky photo, I accidentally changed a camera setting and the flash went off, getting the notice of restaurant staff and resulting in an eerie photo of the second room. I later apologised to Jake, the Bodega staff member whose attention I caught when I was outside and luckily, he was very tolerant of my foolishness.
The restaurant has undergone a renovation that’s still being tweaked but the interior is already quite beautiful. Now it looks more like an American diner with custom laminex tables, duck egg blue leather booths and wooden Italian chairs. The white tiles lining the kitchen are set diamond style, punctuated occasionally with soft blue, yellow and black tiles. The resulting effect reminds me of an muted Argyle sweater.
The decor isn’t the only thing that’s changed at Bodega. Formerly more Spanish/South American style tapas, the menu has broadened to match the new look with buttermilk pancakes, quinoa salad, steak and eggs and a soft milk bun with BBQ tongue & crab some of the items available. I hear the Bodega ham, devilled eggs and pickle is really good too.
To kick off the meal, Kitty, Gibbo and I all had a Gancia y Pomelo cocktail which is flavoured with a housemade grapefruit syrup. I love grapefruit flavoured things and recognise the word for grapefruit in a few different languages. French? Pamplemousse. Italian? Pompelmo. I even follow someone on Twitter partly because their handle includes the word pamplemousse which is really taking the obsession too far.
Next were the lamb empanadas with mint yoghurt which seemed light for something deep fried. I know I know, I always say I don’t like lamb but I do eat it occasionally. Kitty and I had a steamed milk bun with BBQ tongue and crab each and I could have just eaten 3 of those and called it a night. So delicious.
Fish fingers with fresh hiramasa, cuttlefish, charred toast and salt cured tuna (mojama) was my favourite from the night. It ain’t like any fish fingers I had during my childhood. Fresh, light and moreish and the smokiness of the charred toast really gave it that umami edge.
We had a bit of an eggy meal with the buttermilk pancake with salt cod and egg and then wagyu steak ordered with an side of egg and onion rings. I don’t think I could ever give up eating eggs. They’re such a useful ingredient. Do you buy free range eggs? A friend asked me recently if I bought free range because of the reputedly superior flavour. I replied that I didn’t care so much if they tasted better but battery hens live such a miserable life, I couldn’t possibly support that industry. I’d be happy if battery farming ceased to exist. Not that I necessarily think free range hens are living the life of Riley but it’s got to be better than a poor battery hen.
The dessert special of the day was a donut filled with chocolate yoghurt and rolled in Tang. Yes, that sweet orange powder. If you like orange chocolate, it’ll be right up your alley. Is it just me or are donuts on menus everywhere these days? As a general donut fan (cinnamon, no icing please), I don’t recall ever having so many opportunities to order them in a restaurant before. We chose the donut and the Bodega classic ‘banana split’ cream flan, banana marshmallow and dulce de leche ice cream to share. Being dairy-free, Gibbo was just going to nibble on our selections so she didn’t feel ill.
Full disclosure: Kitty is friends with some of the Bodega crew and they sent out an additional dessert for us to share which was very kind. Even better, it was something interesting; the cheesecake sundae with carrot ice cream. The cheesecake sundae was smooth and contrasted nicely with the slightly savoury carrot ice cream. It’s something I’d order in lieu of a cheese plate if I felt like having a sweet and salty dessert.
Overall, Gibbo liked the empananda and the pancake the most and Kitty loved the fish fingers, onion rings and Tang dusted donut. Afterwards, we scampered over to Porteno, which shares the same owners as Bodega. We had another cocktail and sat upstairs in Gardel’s bar enjoying the laid back atmosphere.
Gibbo has been wanting to try Bodega for ages and what better reason than her birthday? Not that anyone needs another reason with the great food and grapefruit drinks.
Bodega tapas bar
216 Commonwealth Street Surry Hills NSW 2010
Open Friday lunch from noon | Tuesday-Saturday dinner from 6pm
Phone: (02) 9212 7766