EDIT: The Hunky Dory Social has now closed
The Hunky Dory Social Club unfolds across three narrow levels on Oxford Street, with most drinkers heading straight for the roof top bar. It's New York industrial chic with exposed brickwork, eclectic furnishings and a drinks menu that's cheekily tucked inside recycled Little Golden Books.
Downstairs you'll find Bruno's, dispatching pizzas throughout the day to the punters upstairs, and offering a more comprehensive menu to diners at night.
Bruno's dining room with cow hide ceiling
Last week's official media launch event was filled with short skirts, towering heels and even a celebrity a two, but many of us were much more interested in the food.
Daniele Trimarchi (ex-Icebergs and Fratelli Paradiso) heads up the kitchen at Bruno's. The focus is rustic Italian, and if anything impresses at first, it's the number of vegetarian dishes, with eleven out of 27 marked helpfully with a (V).
We start with the Olive Misto ($10), a trio of olive nibblies that gets our appetites going. Green olives stuffed with pork and fennel are crumbed and deep-fried until golden brown, but it's the marinated olives that I find myself eating compulsively. Fat green Sicilian olives have a hint of licorice from fennel and a flash of chilli, and the Sambuca Gaeta olives are sticky with syrup that renders them into a divine sort of olive candy.
Insalata de Lenticchia blue lentil salad $18;
Affettati Misti selection of Italian cured meats with almond skordalia $19; and
Insalata Caprese buffalo mozzarella with tomato and basil $14
We pick our way through a platter of cured meats, shaved thinly and draped over a dreaded hunk of slate, but the pot of almond skordalia - a Greek garlic potato puree - seems a little out of place. The blue lentil salad provides a creamy contrast of goats cheese and the freshness of mint, parsley and basil, but the wood fired baby beetroots have a heavy lingering earthiness to them.
And can you ever go wrong with insalata caprese? Not if you're using juicy tomatoes, fresh basil and buffalo mozzarella with Novello olive oil like they do here.
Nduja di Casa spicy cured pork pate $13
The Nduja di Casa is a favourite for most at the table, but I find that texture a little too pasty, reminding me of a raw chorizo. It's got plenty of fire, with a chilli kick that hits the back of your throat, easily tempered by the accompanying round of goat cheese.
Insalata Primavera brussel sprout salad $12
On the other hand, I'm a sucker for the brussel sprout salad, fine slivers of this nutty vegetable tossed through with walnut, parmesan and lemon. A stylised squiggle of caramelised balsamic adds extra sweetness.
Inseparbile pizza with tomato, mozzarella, gorgonzola, Roman sausage and red onion $18
The pizzas arrive on crispy bases dressed moderately with toppings. Some of my fellow diners protest the presence of pesto on a marinated vegetable pizza, but I switch my focus to the Roman sausage pizza, studded with meatball, curls of caramelised red onion and surprise mouthfuls of piquant gorgonzola cheese.
Ortolana pizza with tomato, eggplant, zucchini, capsicum, rocket and pesto $18
Vitello Tonnato slow-braised veal with in-house tuna dressing $18
Salmone Curato con Vodka salmon cured in vodka and beetroot $18
There are no such problems with the cured salmon, smooth and silky on the tongue, with a faint back note of vodka.
Haloumi Grigliato haloumi with roasted red peppers $14
Funghi della Nonna field mushrooms with gorgonzola, pinenuts and spinach $16
Pan-fried haloumi is generous in portion size but some remark it's more rubbery than flavoursome. I'm swayed by the field mushrooms instead, but gorgonzola will do that to me every time.
Diners inside Bruno's
Calamari Fritti $19
We have two plates of calamari fritti arrive at our table of nine and soon realise that one is deliciously crunchy, the other a little more soggy and under-fried. I have access to both, and make short work of the better offering. The calamari is tender beneath the light dusting of flour, and the morish little kumera crisps send everyone on a sly but determined treasure hunt.
Pancia de Malale twice cooked pork belly $32
Our final dish is the twice cooked pork belly, a dual presentation of chopping board on slate. It's an elaborate deconstruction, with a mound of pomegranate fennel salad, a pot of apple sauce and a wedge of pear poached in moscato providing support acts for four tranches of pork belly scattered with crackling "crumble".
Together the flavours work well, but there's so much effort in painstakingly getting a little bit of everything in the one mouthful that this dish falters in prioritising form over function.
The pork belly, thankfully, is cooked to perfection - fatty, soft and unctuous although the traditionalist in me would still rather have a tile of crackling, not smithereens, even if they are delicious.
There's plenty here to keep the Darlo crowd satiated, with punters happily making a pit-stop here for pre- or post- drinks and revelling.
Grab Your Fork attended the media launch as a guest of the Hunky Dory Social Club.
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Bruno's at the Hunky Dory Social Club
EDIT: The Hunky Dory Social has now closed
Tel: +61 (02) 9331 0442
Sunday, Tuesday to Thursday 6pm-late
Friday and Saturday 12pm-late
Bruno's pizzas also available upstairs at the Hunky Dory Social Club Sunday to Thursday 12pm-12am
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2/06/2012 02:00:00 a.m.