Dividing their time between Byron Bay and Sydney, chef Darren Robertson and his author wife Magdalena Roze have built their partnership around a shared love of food for the soul. The pair recently celebrated the opening of chic new Bondi eatery, Rocker, along with a new cookbook, Happy & Whole. Here, the husband-and-wife duo give us a peek into their sunny neighbourhood.
We love Rocker at North Bondi – can you describe the philosophy behind the restaurant:
“It’s a neighbourhood restaurant with wholesome, tasty food and great drinks; the kind of food we love to eat. It’s European-inspired so there’s house-made pasta and charcuterie as well as fresh seafood. We’ve taken a few British classics like the bacon sandwich and Welsh rarebit and made them our own.”
What was your vision for the menu and also the interior style of your new venue?
“Simple, unpretentious and delicious food. We wanted the interior to be inviting and reflect the coastal vibe in North Bondi, so there’s a lot of blue as well as natural timber. We want it to be somewhere that people are comfortable enough to pop into after a swim as well as a special occasion.”
It is a departure from your base in Byron Bay – what do you love about Bondi and this new location:
“We lived in North Bondi before we moved to Byron Bay so it’s quite special to us. We feel that it has a lot in common with Byron Bay in terms of a strong community, beautiful beaches and focus on wellness and wholesome food. It’s a little haven in the busy city and we’re so happy to have a reason to come back to our old stomping ground. It’s also such a hub of great local places like North Bondi Fish, Jo & Willy’s Depot and Porch & Parlour, and we love the surf.”
Can you both reveal a little about the magic between your partnership – what do you admire most about each other and what makes it work?
Darren: “I think that we see each other as equals and support each other’s dreams and ambitions. We share a great passion for food and this has organically led us to collaborate on projects together which is a lot of fun. I admire Mags for being an incredible mother to our son, she's the family manager, she keeps us all together. I love listening to Mags talk about food, she's so passionate but also, as a mum, everything is practical, nutritious and super tasty. I love her for doing anything to make me and Archie laugh, even if means taking a risk.”
Magdalena: “I greatly admire Daz’s integrity, honesty, creativity and drive. He’s hilarious and a bit of a dork deep down, which I love.”
What inspired your love of wholesome, clean food?
Magdalena: “I grew in an eastern European household where making things from scratch and cooking with real, whole foods was the norm mainly because it was cheaper and it’s the way my grandparents had always done things. Fermented foods like kraut and kefir were stock standard and I’m so grateful I was brought up eating such nourishing food as it’s given me really strong food foundations. We’ve never cut anything out but we believe in getting our hands on the best ingredients we can and preparing them properly – whether that’s soaking, fermenting or slow cooking – to bring out the best in terms of flavour and nutrition.”
Name five addresses in your neighbourhood that you love:
Fratelli Paradiso in Potts Point, LP’s Quality Meats in Chippendale, anything the guys from Pinbone do, the Hunter Works in Balmain for coffee and Sean’s Panorama in North Bondi.
Lastly, there’s a chic balance between your styles. Can you describe the similarities in your aesthetics – Magdalena, do you ever borrow from Darren's wardrobe?
“We do love our neutrals, denim and basics, probably because it makes it easier to get ready in the morning and with all the travel we do. I have a lot of white in my wardrobe, which is crazy considering I have a toddler – I am in denial! I prefer to buy once and buy well, so it’s nice to invest in quality classics that I can wear again and again.”
Rocker is located at: 5/39-53 Campbell Parade, North Bondi. Tel: (02) 8057 8086