After years working with Stefano Manfredi at Bells, there was always going to be a lot of buzz about what Cameron Cansdell and Hayley Hardcastle did next (Cameron was head chef at Manfredi at Bells and Hayley managed the restaurant).
With such an impressive restaurant pedigree, there was a lot of hype around the Killcare couple’s Avoca restaurant but like the bumble bee it’s named after, Bombini has had a big impact on its surroundings.
While they might have changed their stripes from the distinctive Hamptons blue at Bells to the bumble bee yellow at Bombini, they’ve carried the same level of service, culinary flair and effortless style with them to their own workplace.
With a few coats of white paint (even on the palm trees), a splash of yellow and a fresh new lawn, Hayley, Cameron and lots of helpers transformed the former home of the infamous Rojo Rocket into a relaxed and casual setting that is modern and super chic.
In stark contrast to the rainbow riot that was Rojo, yellow is the only dominant colour, brightening up tables with beaming sunflower heads, framing the windows, covering the cushions and colouring the plates.
From the tables on the wraparound verandah to the light-filled rear deck, Bombini is a bright and inviting space.
While the rocket is well and truly gone, it has been replaced with a fresh Bombini take – a giraffe – and a hint of kitsch remains with weird and wonderful pop surrealism art by Mark Ryden dotting the walls.
As a lover of all things Italian, I’m very impressed with the menu, which includes ragu, risotto, antipasto and gelato as well as a range of pastas you won’t find in a supermarket aisle.
It’s simple, rustic Italian – more the famed ‘cucina povera’ of the south than westernised creamy carbonaras – and while some elements of the menu need translating, I get the feeling that whatever lands on my plate is going to be bellissimo.
A single bite of the San Daniele prosciutto with crispy ‘music bread’ takes me back to an Italian salumeria and the fritto misto (with crunchy school prawns, zucchini flowers, eggplant and sage leaves) is a fantastic Bombini twist on the fried Italian primi.
The handful of pastas on offer are interesting and authentic, reminding me of my travels through southern Italy.
There’s a flavour-packed tuna stracci with capers and chilli; a busiate with pesto, beans and pecorino; a classic tomato and basil spaghetti; and a duck and veal ragu with corzetti, a pasta that looks like a giant circular coin that has been stamped with an individual design as is tradition in northern Italy.
There is a lot of old Italian tradition mixed in with the new at Bombini – even the gelato machine, which has pride of place in Cameron’s kitchen, is vintage Italy circa 1975.
Whether it’s a licorice flavoured scoop served with gluten-free cake or hazelnut and Amedei chocolate gelato served with shavings of dark chocolate for the ultimate modern Italian sundae – the gelato has become a Bombini specialty.
The day we visit, Cameron has been experimenting with candied lemon and chocolate for an ice cream treat that tastes like a lemon tart spliced with chocolate cake.
Beyond a beautiful restaurant and good food, the couple is practising an important philosophy of organic and sustainable produce.
It’s an ethos that runs right throughout the restaurant, from the garden where they grow their own greens to sourcing non-genetically modified grains, such as farro and spelt, to make their bread and pasta.
It all comes back to the bombini (bumble bee) and making sure bees have a future, because where would we be without them?
As well as a chic place to enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner, the restaurant is home to inviting day beds, the perfect place to while away a balmy evening or a summer’s day.
The upstairs bar has been transformed into a pizzeria serving up piping hot Italian pizzas from a woodfired oven to enjoy over an aperitivo.
There is also a produce store out the front, which offers pasta, freshly-baked bread and other ‘prodotti tipici’ on the shelves, so diners can take a piece of Bombini home.
Coastal Chic Tip: If you haven’t already welcomed Bombini into your life, book in for a meal – the Avoca restaurant is officially home to Australia’s Young Restaurateur of the Year with Cameron winning the top gong at the 2016 Electrolux Appetite for Excellence Awards