One of the first things visitors see when arriving at Bombini is The Pantry – a bit of a farm stall that lures you inside with tempting house-baked pastries, breads, a small range of provisions and whatever fruits or vegetables they may have in abundance from their own kitchen garden.
We may have come here for lunch, but purchasing a few of the pastries was a given. Wise move, as it appeared the onion bread had already sold out – much to the disappointment of two locals that turned up, only to learn that there was none left.
Something else that lured me in like a bumble bee – or bombini – was the signage by the car park. A path leads down to the kitchen garden – sparsely growing with artichoke, passionfruit, grapefruit, cabbage, pumpkins and Swiss chard – and a small chicken coop with some rather happy girls.
Nice to see sustainability is on the agenda with owners Cameron Cansdell – previously head chef at Manfredi at Bells – and his wife Hayley – Bells food and beverages manager.
Together they’ve transformed the former hyper-coloured Rojo Rocket Mexican restaurant into a much more muted dining space. And what a space it is. An old weatherboard cottage with airy verandas, glass louvres and shutters surrounded by shady trees and gardens. There’s a real plantation vibe about it.
There may not have been much action on the day we visited, but the leafy terrace bar would be an ideal area to soak in the monthly live music, or afternoon aperitivo from Friday through to Sunday.
With a name like Bombino, it’s pretty clear what the cuisine of choice is at this hillside eatery. Antipasto, primi, and secondi are menu break-downs you’d expect to see considering where these guys previously worked.
Some burnished salt cod, potato and saffron polpettine (8) were first to arrive – fresh from the fryer with soft and creamy innards loaded with flavour.
Another one from the fryer – fritto misto (18) – is a golden extravaganza of eggplant, cauliflower, sage leaves and school prawns. Dipped into the garlic mayo they’re a real treat, and that sage was an absolute winner.
Unfortunately prawns weren’t available for our next choice, but a replacement of grilled squid with the fennel, pomegranate, mint and olive salad (14) was perfectly fine. The fennel formed the bulk of the salad, adding an aromatic crunch to the fresh ensemble. Nice touch with the grated bottarga, that beautiful compressed salt-cured fish roe.
The secondi options are very much on the meaty side, with a fish stew thrown in for those of us that have a penchant for sea life. I couldn’t go past the Berkshire pork shoulder (33) – a rather large slab of slow-cooked goodness with some serious girth. The rich juices moistened the meat nicely, with cavalo nero and a bacon and taleggio gratinata that packed a punch. There’s a good chunk of crackling, of course, plus chestnuts and mustard fruits.
The house-made potato gnocchi (23) was quite possibly the lightest we’ve encountered. Now this is what gnocchi should be like, something that virtually melts on the tongue. A ragù of duck and wild hare comes along for the ride, and what a ride it was.
A handful of Italian and French cheeses are there to help wind down from all the savouries, but we skipped right into the sweet stuff. Raspberries and cream (14) has been done a million times, but the Bomnini rendition is a step away from the conventional. We’ve got mascarpone topped with steamed meringue that’s topped with their own raspberry sorbet. Fresh raspberries are dotted around with prosecco jelly and light dusting of dried strawberry. Yep, as good as it sounds.
An Amedei chocolate torta (15) – fondant to some – is deliciously warm, bitter-sweet and molten. Morello cherries and almond cream increase the juice-factor, with some added sweet crunch from cacao nibs.
Finally, because we needed it, is the coconut panna cotta (14). Nothing should overcomplicate such a delicate dessert, and I found the passionfuit and custard apple was just what it needed.
Now, somebody roll us out of here.
hnf & co dined as guests of Bombini