It was just after midday on a Saturday afternoon when I arrived at Bombini at Avoca Beach. Despite it being well into winter, the sun was out and the weather was warm enough to leave my jacket in the car. The first thing I heard upon approaching the entrance was the sound of little children laughing and playing in the garden just outside the restaurant.
Inside, the heavy presence of timber and white furniture mixed with bursts of yellow delivered a similarly happy, family-friendly vibe. Friends greeted each other before sitting at their tables, and a warmly-lit kitchen glowed in anticipation of the day’s first orders. The atmosphere was bright and welcoming – exactly the kind of vibe you hope to be greeted with on a weekend lunch. First impressions are crucial, and the one I got from Bombini was of a delightful, inviting restaurant that radiated a homely feeling – despite being over an hour’s drive away from my hometown of Sydney.
Spread across two acres of land, Bombini offers not only a dining experience, but a relaxing environment to watch the hours pass by with good food, good drinks and good company. The restaurant itself resembles a Queenslander styled cottage, and is split into a number of different rooms to cater to families, quiet diners and group bookings.
Image credit: Tim BrandImage credit: Tim BrandOutside on the back deck, a group celebrated a friend’s birthday.
Bombini was opened in October 2014 by Cameron and Hayley Cansdell, formerly of Manfredi at Bells. Their passion for natural and sustainably sourced food jumps off the modern Italian menu, with produce from Bombini’s own vegetable garden featured in multiple dishes. Across the menu you’ll find antipasto to share; cured meats; vegetable, seafood and meat options for first and second courses; fresh vegetable-based sides; cheese plates to share; and sweet desserts.
Picking dishes is always a challenge when a menu boasts of such high quality produce and such mouth-watering combinations. It took some time, but we eventually decided on the Acquerello risotto with radicchio, Gorgonzola, Grana Padano and buffalo mozzarella ($23) and the House-made potato gnocchi with a ragu of duck and wild hare in red wine with Grana Padano ($23/$33) for our first courses.
Acquerello rice from Piedmont in Italy’s northwest is regarded as the best rice in the world. It’s earned itself this reputation by retaining more flavour when soaked in water and stock, and by remaining firm and apart throughout the cooking process. The decision to use this rice reflects Bombini’s overall dedication to bringing visitors the best quality produce not only from Australia, but from Italy as well. Combined with the three famous Italian cheeses, the risotto delivered an intensely cheesy and delightfully creamy flavour that ensured I ate every single grain of rice in that bowl.
The gnocchi, also with Grana Padano, came to us under a blanket of the grated cheese. The potato was very smooth and the ragu had a rich flavour, with the duck and hare meats combining perfectly with the red wine to produce each tantalising spoonful. Every single bite was perfection and my next visit to Bombini will without a doubt include an order of the gnocchi.
For my second course, I chose the Slow-roast Berkshire pork shoulder with cavalo nero, Pino’s smoked bacon and parmesan gratinata, Di Coppi chestnuts and La Tamerici mustard fruit ($33). Whenever I order a main dish, I often try to pick something with multiple components to it – otherwise having the exact same flavour and texture throughout an entire meal can get a little underwhelming. The pork shoulder seemed to have known this, because it came out with an array of different textures and ingredients on display. The pork shoulder was succulent and tasty, while some chunks of pork crackling added an enjoyable crunch. The bacon and parmesan gratinata was golden and crispy, just how it ought to be, and worked well to bring in additional flavours to the dish.
In an effort to avoid a meat coma, we also ordered a side of the Roast cauliflower with Grana Padano, parsley and garlic ($8). At this point it probably looks like I have a Grana Padano obsession seeing as how it was in both first courses we ordered as well as this side, but I promise it was just a coincidence – a happy coincidence at that, because the cauliflower was simple but delightful as a pairing to our mains.
I was also lucky enough to try the newest addition to Bombini’s second courses, the Grilled duck breast with orange, parsnip puree and pickled turnips ($33). When this dish landed on my table, it was difficult not to let out a range of ooh’s and ahh’s. It was beautifully plated, with the chunks of duck breast cuddled by a generous pile of parsnip puree and surrounded by a gentle pool of the meat’s natural juices. The meat was wonderfully tender and the puree was smooth but structured, with some soft chunks of parsnip appearing throughout.
With our stomachs happily filled, we ordered dessert and then wandered around the property while we waited.
Image credit: Tim Brand
Outside, brightly coloured daybeds lined the restaurant and filled the space leading up to the open bar terrace, providing a great place to lounge with a cocktail in hand.
Bombini Bar is open from 4pm on Fridays and from midday on weekends, and features live music on the second Sunday of each month from 3-6pm. In addition to an expansive wine list, the bar serves a range of classic and signature cocktails that beg to be enjoyed. We tried the Cucumber Spritz ($18), which was a light, fizzy and refreshing concoction, and the Cocobomb ($18), which featured a smooth combination of mescal and coconut.
Bombini also has a little shop on-site selling freshly baked breads (sweet and savoury) and a number of cooking ingredients used in the Bombini kitchen, like pastas, flour, salt and oils. Named ‘The Pantry’, it’s difficult not to get lost in the cuteness of the little store as you make your way in to and out of the restaurant.
The chicken coop and vegetable garden are located towards the base of Bombini’s sloped property. Described as an ongoing project, the garden already features a variety of fruits and vegetables and does well to illustrate the philosophy of sustainability that Bombini abides by. It’s a little harder to spot the chickens, which enjoy hiding up in the trees, but I was lucky enough to make one clucky friend during my visit.
I’ve made it no secret that I have a massive sweet tooth, so after exploring Bombini’s property I was eager to have my sugar hit. We had Bombini’s signature dessert, the Raspberries and Cream ($14) and the special for the day, Panna cotta with custard apple and passionfruit ($15). Both desserts tasted fresh and lightly sweet, which was perfect considering the heavy lunch we’d had. The raspberries and cream was composed of poached meringue topped with a raspberry sorbet, with clusters of prosecco jelly and fresh raspberries. I loved the variety of components to this dish, which shone brightest when I took a spoonful loaded with each ingredient. The jelly balanced the sorbet. The raspberries paired perfectly with the cream and meringue. Everything worked in unison to create a tasty dessert.
And if you’re ever offered the panna cotta, I recommend you try it as well. Just do what I did and force your companion to order one or the other so you can have the best of both worlds. The panna cotta was so divinely smooth and creamy, and with the slight sweetness of the custard apple and the flavourful hit of the passionfruit, it definitely delivered a dessert that was oh-so-satisfying.
Bombini’s menu is seasonal, with slight variations to dishes and entirely new dishes weaving in and out as different produce becomes available. The property invites exploration, and it is well worth it to take your time when you visit. Bombini offers a little something for everyone – whether it be a casual family lunch, a romantic dinner date, a happily boozy evening at the bar, or a memorable group celebration.
And on a side note: Avoca Beach is only a 5 minute drive from Bombini. It proved to be the perfect place to walk off my food coma.
Please note Bombini will be closed between 3rd August and 2nd September 2015.
366 Avoca Drive, Avoca NSW
Phone: (02) 4381 1436
I Ate My Way Through dined as guests of Bombini