Tomi Björck is a bit of a poster boy for the Nordic hospitality scene. Never heard of him? That's about to change. This month the Finnish chef, who has a clutch of restaurants to his name in Europe, is trading minus-six degree Helsinki for Sydney's sizzling 2026: Bondi Beach.
Björck is best known for his restaurants Farang and Gaijin in Finland. Blanca Bar & Dining, set to open 26 January within the Hub dining complex on Hall Street, will be Björck's first Australian restaurant.
Blanca's Black Bun with crisp soft-shell crab, XO mayo and kombu pickled daikon.
Björck describes the food as "European-style," but with "nice fresh Japanese flavours" - the likes of diamond shell clams with dashi and dill flowers, say, and grilled octopus with yuzu and brown butter. The large menu - which runs from $4 to $40 - is split into snacks, raw things, seafood, meat and sides. Diners can choose to order à la carte, or opt for a tasting menu of six or nine dishes."I want to cook for everyone," says Björck. "For my neighbours, for families, for travellers… It should be possible for everyone, so we're trying to get the prices as low as we can."
On the snacks menu, mussels with kombu and lemon jam vie for space with a Manchego-brioche roll stuffed with jamón, more Manchego and truffled cabbage, along with rich lap cheong croquetas with harissa. Björck is most excited about the grilled king prawns, though. "We've done these at home on the barbecue before," he says. "We use the prawn heads to make a saffron emulsion and a prawn head oil, and serve them with tiny, baby burrata for a bit of creaminess."
Sashimi kingfish, aojiso dressing, horseradish, kombu
Björck's partner in Blanca is former Dinner by Heston Blumenthal chef Samuel Cole; the pair first met working together in Sydney at Quay. "He was our apprentice," says Björck. "Since then he's cooked all over the world, and he said 'If you ever open a restaurant in Australia I want to work for you.'"
The desserts speak of summer at the beach. There's a house-made soft-serve of the day, and some more elaborate options such as the Bondi Sands, which teams chocolate ganache and whipped panna cotta ice-cream with salted caramel, mascarpone, almond biscuits, praline and toasted coconut.
Blanca's yuzu sour
Along with a mix of European, Australian and New Zealand wines, there are eight G&Ts on offer and an extensive cocktail list with drinks named for Bondi street names.
Björck's been a Bondi local now for a year and a half and says he just can't fault the lifestyle. "It's not just Bondi," he says, "It's Australia. I can cook whatever I want at home and in the restaurant. The produce is just so impressive."
Blanca Bar & Dining opens 26 January 2017.
Blanca Bar & Dining, 4/75-79 Hall St, Bondi Beach (access via O'Brien St), NSW, open 4pm-11pm Monday to Thursday, and 11am-11pm Friday to Sunday.