Food for the soul - Panama House {Bondi Rd}

Jun 21, 2012


Images sourced via Panama House

Panamanian fever hits Bondi Rd. Where else in Sydney can you enjoy relaxed dining with such a delightful culmination of handpicked dishes, inspired from travels to South America, Mexico, Central America and trickling over into good old Southern America. Food for the soul indeed.

Panama House has very recently launched on Bondi Rd, brought to you by the same team behind Italian eatery 'the corner house' and local haunt 'the shop' also on Bondi Rd, the new joint adds to the 'food revolution' apparently taking place on the strip. Panama House is fun, friendly and down to earth and worlds away from the hustle and bustle of nearby Bondi Beach. 

The interiors consist of simple yet beautiful industrial fixtures including walls stripped back to reveal exposed brick. I love that you can see the original building features and original archways in this warehouse style space. A narrow dining area, yet plenty of warmth with elegant pendant drop lighting hanging from exposed timber beams, concrete and white tiles blending perfectly with the contemporary sunken bar and stools to create an intimate and relaxed dining experience. Clearly designed with love!  

Inspired by their extensive travels, Anthony Kaplan and Brent Mills have created an eatery offering a delicious mix of Central and South America with traditional favourites thrown in. Where else can start your day with a 7am breakfast of Huevos Rancheros (corn tortilla, spiced black beans, smashed avo, egg, salsa and chipotle hollandaise) and end the day with a Hanger steak burger, Cajun blackened beetroot salad and sip on Panama Mary's until the wee hours.  A soulful place to sit back and relax, enjoy the fiery flavours and watch the buzzing Bondi Rd set enjoying well deserved post-work champagne and oysters at the bar. Great to see tables overflowing with a happy crowd enjoying soul food and conversation with loved ones. No siestas here - you'll have no trouble getting food at Panama House day and night, a great place to stop outside of the normal cafe schedule.  

Having spent a lot of time in South America, mostly in Peru and Chile, I never quite made it as far North as Central America, a part of the world that seems so intriguing and exciting to me. Panama House has no shortage of unique and rich Panamanian cuisine with plenty of  traditional corn based dishes as well as tortilla soupceviche and peppered beef carpaccio. Classic staples like southern fried chicken and New York cheesecake have also been thrown in to the mix.  

A glass of Rose to read the menu, and the fun begins with the delivery of four little jars of home made salsas and chutneys to the table. Admittedly a tad shy when it comes to big spicy hits, I opted for the fresh tomato salsa and pineapple relish to go with starters of house tacos - fresh grilled corn tortilla, apple cider pork and popcorn shrimp. The Panama Burger was a big hit with my husband - last on the menu but a very popular main - Hanger steak patty, grilled Swiss cheese, house pickles on a sweet soft bun with hand cut chips and artfully presented on a thick wooden board. I opted for Grilled Hanger steak with battered buttermilk onion rings, a side of Mexi char grilled sweet corn topped off with a lovely glass of Patagonian Postales Malbec Syrah blend. {I now know that Hanger steak, prized for its flavour, was sometimes called "butcher's steak" because they would often keep it for themselves instead of selling it. Used often in traditional Mexican cuisine, particularly in the north, called arrachera, and marinated, grilled and served with a squeeze of lime juice, guacamole, salsa and tortillas to roll tacos}. 

Now on to dessert! It was only a week earlier that I started my love affair with Banoffee - an English pastry-based dessert made from bananas, cream, toffee from boiled condensed milk.  The Panama Banoffee Brulee with hard crispy toffee top was a brilliant twist, and I even managed to steal a little taste of my husbands choc fondant with smashed strawberry Eton mess. Eton mess you ask? Another traditional English dessert of strawberries, smashed meringue and cream (traditionally served at Eton College's annual student cricket game). So to save the best news until last, the dessert menu runs all day! The only downfall of the evening was that I was so full I didn't have any room for cocktails. I will return just to taste the Elderflower clerico (a mix of St Germain, Pinot Grigio/fruit, lemon and soda) and the smugglers punch. 

Panama House perfectly mixes the spicy flavours of Central & South America, hearty Southern American soul food and a touch of the traditional so there is something for everyone. It seems a food revolution is happening on the Bondi Rd strip, buzzing with vibrant bars and 'foodies finds' including the House of Chocolate right next door. Corners House, sister restaurant is just around the corner as the name suggests, and I for one can't wait to return for my next Bondi Rd session of cosy cocktails and Italian food in the many dining and drinking nooks.

You can find out more on the Panama House facebook page

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