Reviewed by Georgia Cassimatis
What is a famous Finnish Chef who owns five restaurants in Helsinki and one in Sweden, and who appears as a judge on Masterchef Finland, doing in Sydney’s Bondi Beach opening a Japanese Mediterranean restaurant?
‘I first came to Australia in 2005 by chance,’ says co-owner Tomi Bjorck of Blanca Bar and Dining, based in the heart of the Hall Street hub of Bondi Beach.
‘I was 25 years old and really wanted to travel. Having trained as a French chef and worked in Michelin star restaurants across Spain, England, Sweden and Finland, my next goal was to work in either San Diego or Sydney. I flipped a coin, chose Sydney, and fell in love with the city straight away.’
Landing in Potts Point, Bjork worked at the award winning Quay restaurant for two and a half years, which is where he met his now business partner and Head Chef of Blanca, Sami Cole. ‘I taught Sami cooking and he taught me surfing. We’ve always made a great team’.
Moving onto renowned restaurant Longrain, he stayed for another two years before returning to Helsinki in 2009 to open up his first restaurant.
‘I missed Australia like mad and really wanted to open up my own restaurant here. I was also struggling because being a French trained chef I had a great base for all cooking styles: from pastry to seafood, meat, everything, plus I could cook Spanish, Italian, Japanese and Thai food. I had all these skills but nowhere to play with them. Sami as well has worked with Heston Blumenthol, and some of the best chefs in France, so we decided to join forces and have fun with all our skills.’
….thus was born Blanca, which opened on Australian Day last year, and is not only a hot spot for locals and international visitors, but a favourite with another famous chef, Marco Pierre White.
‘We chose the name Blanca because it’s Catalan (Spanish) for ‘blank canvas’: a place where all our cooking diversity and travels come together. The design is white and industrial on which we add our ‘spices’ like Japanese design and European art. Our food menu is Mediterranean Japanese fused with the best Australian produce. We use a lot of Japanese flavours and both Japanese and French cooking techniques.”
With Blanca bar situated next to Blanca restaurant, it prides itself as having a great priced menu, which operates like a three star Michelin restaurant, with a chilled out atmosphere.
‘To get the full experience, I recommend our Tasting Menu, which has 7-10 dishes from seafood, meat and desert. I’d also start with one of our signature style cocktails: the Herushinki is a favourite.’
Tomi’s top suggestion if hanging out at Blanca Bar are the oysters with mandarin-sezchuan pepper mignonette and softshell black buns washed down with the famous Yakuza espresso martini or the Paloma Blanca.
Where: Shops 3 & 4, 75-79 Hall Street Bondi Beach
For bookings: Blanca.com.au