Hobart’s Institut Polaire is housed in a distinctly cosy space, with the proportions dictated by one of Hobart’s classic historic building, which abuts the Customs House Hotel. And while the hotel spills over multiple classified buildings, Institut Polaire occupies the ground floor of just one, with 30 guests squeezing the interior to capacity. But although…
Ode, on Bondi Road, Bondi, is very much a local’s haunt that blurs the line between casual restaurant and wine bar, as many modern wine-centred hotspots do. But that notion of being a neighbourhood place (bar, restaurant, wine bar…) – somewhat carefree, familiar, pretence free – shouldn’t be mistaken for a lack of depth.
Ode has a fairly eclectic, bohemian vibe, with exposed bricks and beams, upcycled fixtures and casually dressed staff, all in keeping with the minimal-intervention wine list. But scratch the surface and there’s a world of rigorous experience at play, with manager Patrick Frawley a 15-year veteran of head sommelier roles in London, New York and Hong Kong at Michelin-starred venues.
Heading the floor, top sommelier Olivier Bonnetton has a little Michelin experience, too, with a meaningful stint at a three-star restaurant in Corsica before landing in Sydney. Bonnetton now shapes the wine list at Ode, which can waver between 150 and 250 offerings. Minimal-intervention wines are the core focus, with many falling into the ‘natural’ camp. Although wines are not chosen as dogmatically ‘natural’, minimal sulphur additions, no fining and minimal filtration are absolutes, with organic and biodynamic practices a cornerstone.
And though that formal training runs deep at Ode, the service is marked by warm generosity rather than formality, which was always the intention of operational owners Jerome Wallcroft and Jeremy Moyle who wanted “a place to call a home away from home, for us and the guests.”
Overseeing the food is Alexandra Shannon, who adds a couple more Michelin stars to the collective resumé, having trained at a two-star Italian restaurant. Shannon works with Walcroft to drive the menu, which traces general European arcs. House-made focaccia, oysters, olives, jamon, salumi and the like make up some of the simpler offerings, with kingfish carpaccio, mussels on toast, braised octopus with nduja and fried school prawns taking things up a notch. You might find barbecued pork belly, crisp-skinned blue-eye on wilted mustard greens, as well as all manner of things charred over coals on the hibachi grill, with sparklingly fresh sardines a feature; and pasta and gnocchi are made in-house, of course. As said, wine bar or restaurant… the lines are delightfully blurred.
COVID-19 conditions: Ode has bounced back to a near-normal situation, with hour/days a little trimmed and capacity reduced, as with all venues.