People who sigh and say Bridge Rd is dead—book a date night at ONDA immediately. It’s a new South American fusion restaurant near Church St, and it’s already our favourite eatery on the strip...and potentially in Richmond as well. Yep, it’s that bloody good.
ONDA (literally “wave” in Spanish, but here it means something closer to “flow”) is the brainchild of hospo power couple Stephen and Niharika Hogan. They travelled extensively in South America, fell in love with all-you-can-eat arepas, and here we are: their own little blue-suede Latin fiesta in Melbourne.
Fiesta is definitely the mood when we swing by. This place has a buzz about it. Partly that’s down to the on-point mint green-flamingo pink décor, decked out in monstera murals, curly blue bench seating and the sort of chairs you see on Pinterest boards. It’s a beautiful corner spot, and the vintage leadlight windows don’t hurt either.
But let’s talk menu, because we’re struggling to think of anywhere else in town cooking this stuff (Buenos Dias in Carlton comes close, but it’s less experimental). Stephen was the executive chef at AU79 and Sir Charles, and he’s built a fusion menu that makes your synapses fizzle.
Need examples? How about plantain fingers with zingy lime aioli. Potato and cassava crisps with chilli-spiked avocado salsa (possibly the greatest guac in Melbourne). A prawn ceviche—not something you see everyday—paired with green mole and blood orange. And we haven’t even gotten to the mains yet...
The best way to go is to just order a bunch of stuff and attack it from all angles. But if you’re looking for tips, try the crispy braised pig’s cheek with beef fat croutons and chimichurri. Hummanahummana...
For dessert? Defs the Sweet Tamale: sort of a South American take on Eton Mess, with ash meringue, acai marshmallows, seasonal fruit and coconut gel. It’s all mad scientist stuff, but somehow Hogan pulls it off.
The wine list isn’t huge, which is refreshing really. You’re better off with Estrella on tap, bottles of Mexican Dos Equis, or the signature grapefruit margarita (our personal favourite). Tequila, grapefruit and orange liquor, zapped with jalapenos.
Who was it saying Bridge Rd is dead? Not us, that's for sure.
Image credit: Griffin Simm