While most of us were busy learning the moves to the Macarena and discovering Hey Arnold! for the first time, a veritable Sydney institution was setting up shop in Darlinghurst, and you can find it in exactly the same spot today.
Walking into a provincial French restaurant like Onde is similar to coming home after a long day at work – it’s cosy, comforting and you can always count on a friendly face to welcome you with a glass of vino. About to turn 19, Onde celebrated arriving at legal drinking age last year with the bottling of their very own house wines for you to sample. And while this Darlinghurst restaurant has adapted to changes in the hospitality world, some dishes on the menu have remained since the doors first opened; namely the t-bone steak, the duck confit, and the sinfully rich chocolate terrine.
After decades in the business, owner Simone Lai greets many patrons by name. She tells us she “can tell if people are a steak or a duck person”, and has swooped in to rectify many an awkward first date silence. So what’s the secret to almost twenty years in the industry? Simonde tell us it’s simply about a consistent product and being up front, and the vibe at Onde is just that: what you see is what you get. And what you get is wined and dined like a king or queen.
So, the question you’ve all been waiting for… What did we eat? The short answer is, well, everything. Going with the provincial French vibe, we simply had to tuck into the duck liver pate with cornichon. Spreading it on crusty bread and scraping every last morsel was nothing short of a privilege. If you’d prefer something a tad lighter, the ever so gently fried squid with salted tomato, aioli and roquette is the ideal way to kick things off.
Now, when the time comes to order mains, there are a few things you should know – firstly, these guys do one of the best steaks in Sydney. Big call, we know, but we wouldn’t even dream about making that call without being 100 per cent confident in it, plus the kitchen has had 19 years to get it down pat. It comes in the form of a grilled Cape Grim t-bone with red wine butter oozing on the top and sides and crunchy fries that get all butter soaked and… Seriously, wow. Secondly, you should know that the duck confit is the perfect combination of crispy skin and soft, rich meaty goodness that mingles with sweet caramelised apples and crunchy walnuts. Thirdly, if you’re game to try something new or you’re a fan of this type of thing, the seared calves liver with braised red cabbage is another one that has been on the menu since the early days, so you know it’s offaly good. No worries if you’re a vego, either; there are plenty of meat-free options to keep you happy (especially the perfectly crunchy crisp polenta).
When the time comes to bring out your second stomach for dessert, the chocolate terrine is an absolute must; so the hard part comes in deciding what else to sample. The caramelised figs with sour cream ice cream are the ideal end to an epic meal, but we understand it can be impossible to pass up a classic meringue with strawberries and cream.
So what will you be, a steak, or a duck? Head over to Onde and find out for yourself.
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Image credit: Lisa Brooke