And good thing there is rum in my life these days. It’s taken me a while to appreciate dark rum (though not as long as it will take for whisky) and a place like The Rum Diaries in Bondi is perfect learning (and drinking) grounds.
|Heating a Hot Buttered Rum at The Rum Diaries, Bondi Road, Bondi|
One of the earlier small bars in Bondi, the aptly named rum-focused bar has a 1920s mansion feel to its interiors and looks like the kind of place that murder mysteries take place.
The Rum Diaries introduced a new, more serious dining menu earlier this year by head chef Gerald Touchard (ex Astral). So now, to go with your rum cocktails is a concise menu of shared nibbles, entrées and main meals that, Touchard tells us, has reduced restaurant food wastage from their earlier share platter days – win-win, I think.
A little story and history lesson accompanies each drink in the cocktail menu, such as my sweet pink Knickerbocker of 1852 – featuring Appleton V/X rum, Cointreau, house raspberry syrup and lemon juice – which is touted as an early Tiki style drink of the mid-19th century.
All the rum cocktails you’d expect are on the list: from the Rum Old Fashioned of the 1800s to the Rum Blazer of the 1850s, the Daiquiri of 1905, the Mojito of 1931, the Mai Tai of 1944 and the Pina Colada of 1954.
|Hot Buttered Rum|
Featuring Angostura 1919 rum, spiced butter, cloudy apple juice and topped with fresh grated nutmeg, the warmed fruit and spice aromas bring Christmas cake to mind, but in a much less cloying fashion.
It’s a great cocktail to introduce the flavours of rum to the palate and is the perfect hot cocktail for the cooler weather.
|Tempura zucchini flower stuffed with haloumi, pine nuts & pomegranate vinaigrette|
Deep fried zucchini flowers are an easy crowd pleaser, arriving to reveal soft haloumi cheese innards. The sweetness of the pomegranate vinaigrette was a pleasing match with the savoury cheese.
|Kingfish ceviche with grapefruit mojito gel, crispy white radish|
Piling the ceviche onto sourdough crisps made for a fabulous mouthful of crunch and silky, soft fish and though I like more zing in my ceviche, there was no faulting the overall result.
|Chicken liver parfait with Pedro Ximenez jelly, orange puree and crisp bread|
I must be upping my liver tolerance because I actually really enjoyed this particularly creamy parfait which was so rich and smooth I almost forgot it was liver. The sweet accompaniments hit all the right notes, particularly the fruit bread of which an additional order was sorted with ease.
|Seared scallops with yuzu lemon puree, edamame bean and nashi pear salad|
The salad of nashi pear sticks, peeled edamame beans and crunchy black-hued crackers, possibly of nori seaweed, was unique but sensibly let the spotlight remain on the gorgeous scallops.
|Tenderly cooked duck with sauté wild mushrooms, autumn vegetables and mandarin jus|
The slow roasted duck breast, finished in the pan for a still-pink middle, was a textbook example of juicy, tender duck as it should be. As much as I love chestnuts, the puree didn’t quite do it for me but I was swooning over the freeze dried mandarin segments, which gave the dish a clever duck a l’orange makeover.
We also had a side of truffle mash potato which was topped with finely grated black truffle. The thick, buttery mash was already amazing and the truffle just tipped it over the edge to ‘best side dish ever’ status. A glass of pinot noir capped off the perfect winter main.
|Banana cream with smoked salt caramel, spiced pineapple tapioca and ginger beer jelly|
As a sago lover, the spiced cubes of pineapple with creamy sago/tapioca could have been a delectable dessert on their own, but was even better with the mild ginger beer jelly and banana cream for quite a mind-blowing dessert.
I’m embarrassed to say that I completely pigged out and got into the regional and imported cheese board that followed, and was scraping the last of the oozy Gippsland camembert off the wooden board before I remembered – I’d forgotten to take a photo.
It wasn’t even the buttery, smooth Plantation Rum, recommended served neat, affecting me; cheese does these sorts of things to me. So imagine a very generous board of three cheeses, fig and port chutney, thinly sliced Granny Smith apple and dates sliced lengthways, accompanied by warm thins of crunchy walnut bread.
The Swiss hard cheese, gruyere perhaps, was particularly nutty but combined with the sweet, jammy dates, took on a chocolatey-coffee characteristic that was addictive. It was difficult, however, to not call the Old Telegraph Road blue cheese my favourite, with the fig and port chutney for offsetting sweetness.
|Some of the rum selection at The Rum Diaries|
I might have to put that particular secret in the diary but as for The Rum Diaries, well, the secret’s out.
Food, booze and shoes dined as a guest of The Rum Diaries, with thanks to Re:Love Group.