Ravesi’s is a Bondi institution. Its street-level Low Tide Bar is located just across the road from the beach, on the corner of Hall St and Campbell Parade, so most sun-loving Sydneysiders end up having a drink here at some point. Because it’s in such a top spot, I’ve long been curious about the boutique accommodation upstairs.
Sadly, on the weekend I choose to stay, summer has gone into remission. It’s windy, cold and raining. Still, if you’re going to stay in a hotel opposite one of the world’s most beloved beaches, you may as well get a room with a view. While Ravesi’s has four ‘Side View’ rooms ($249 weeknights, $269 Friday/Saturday night), I fork out a bit more for a beachfront room ($329/$359).
My room is on the second floor at the end of a dimly lit hallway. I can’t wait to get inside, but as I struggle with the heavy door I am surprised to discover the room is in darkness. The heavy curtains are drawn shut, blocking out all daylight. But perhaps that’s a ruse by management to heighten guests’ glee as they pull back the curtains to reveal two arched French doors that lead to juliet balconies and a sweeping panorama from North Bondi to Icebergs.
Despite the bad weather, I spend the next ten minutes mesmerised by that view. Blustery winds shake the palm trees along the promenade as locals hunch inside their hoodies, thrusting their hands deep into their pockets to escape the chill. When I turn back into the room, I’m surprised to see that the bed is rumpled. The doona cover hasn’t been ironed and there’s an indentation on the left hand side of the bed, like someone’s been sitting there.
Maybe the cleaner got distracted by the view too.
The room’s décor is pleasantly simple: walnut-stained timber and chocolate brown hues are accented with crisp white. It’s a nice combo, but the coffee table could use a wipe down and the walls are scuffed at suitcase height. The slightly soiled feel continues in the bathroom, which has a musty odour. All-white is a brave choice for hotel bathrooms: this one’s taking on a yellowed appearance and the grout is discoloured in places. A dedicated product for cleaning stainless steel would do wonders for the dull shower fittings. It’s not condemnable, by any means, and cleaner than my bathroom – but I’m assuming they have housekeepers.
To be fair, the hotel was last renovated six years ago, and with a lick of paint it would equal some of the best mid-range hotels I’ve stayed in. It’s pure indulgence to sit on the bed and watch madmen in wetsuits tackle today’s stormy swell, lifesavers conducting drills, and someone in a terry-towelling hat trawling the sand with a metal detector.
While the wind is approaching gale force outside, a lovely breeze is created inside by leaving the French doors ajar. How often do you get real fresh air in a hotel room these days? It’s blissful.
I’m here on a Sunday night – unfortunately the only night of the week that Ravesi’s Restaurant isn’t open for dinner. I’ve eaten here before, however, and have a soft spot for it. If you go, I recommend executive chef Darren Elmes’ main of crispy pork belly with spiced pear, baby purple carrots and fennel puree – my favourite!
But there are other dining options: the Wine Bar and Drift Cocktail Bar, both on Ravesi’s first floor, are open seven nights. They are generally stylish places to spend time, mixing darkly sophisticated décor with beachside cool. The Wine Bar offers a tapas and pizza menu, plus oysters, cheese and dessert plates. Drift focuses on tapas and pizza.
But on this Sunday night, the music is too loud for conversation. Both bars are full of stand-up punters with beers in hand and a nightclub vibe. I’m confused – it’s only 7pm. I learn that Ravesi’s hosts “Singha Sundays” throughout summer. Sponsored by the beer company, they feature DJs, live music, Thai nibblies and Singha beer.
I would have loved this ten years ago! But I think the Zabriskie Book Club, held at Ravesi’s on the last Tuesday of every month, is more my speed these days.
For now, I retreat to my room and order room-service tapas: trout and ginger dumplings ($12) and duck confit with pancakes, coriander and cucumber ($16). They are both delicious. The duck is tender and not too salty, with crispy skin. The trout dumplings are intensely flavoured, and tempered with tamarind dipping sauce.
After dinner, I stand on my balcony overlooking the black ocean. The wind is still blowing a gale, but I’m happy I’m here. Bad weather could easily have ruined a Bondi stay, but it made me realise that Ravesi’s is a great year-round option. There’s nothing better than snuggling up with a good view while the world rages on.