From the team behind The Botanist in Kirribilli and Bondi Hardware comes SoCal, short for “So California”. So it should be no surprise that the menu is a mixture of Mexican and American classics like Mac & Cheese. There’s also a very tempting cocktail menu and we succumbed.
Its a pleasant bar space, but there is also a fun outdoor beachy white balcony, which would be great to cordon off for a party. How would I describe our night here? Relaxed, and casual, a place where you can have a few drinks, chill with friends, and snack have or a full meal. The food is overall enjoyable, but not necessarily of the innovative/blow your mind variety. Sharing with a few friends, you can eat more than your fair share for $30-$40 per head, and I think that is about the right price point for the standard. The staff were really warm and enthusiastic, and keen to get our feedback on dishes.
We start off with some guacamole and salsa, and a side of Tater Tots. The guac I’d say is just standard, but combined with the corn and salsa and a crispy corn chip becomes lively. The TT’s on the other hand, just don’t do it for me and feel like they’ve come from a frozen McCains bag labelled kids snacks – although maybe nostalgia is the intention here.
The kingfish is beautifully fresh, though the passionfruit doesn’t add enough of the intended acidity, a wedge of lime would have helped.
One of my favourites of the night are the pulled pork quesiladas with eggplant. I wouldn’t necessarily have thought to combine pork and eggplant, and its a combination which works well. I could eat a heap of these (and I think I did). If you were meeting a few friends for a drink, and just wanted a plate of something to munch on, this would be the perfect choice.
We do see a bit of creativity with the cauliflower salad, combined with currants, pistachio, oregano and cumin yoghurt.
The seared salmon is nicely cooked but the zucchini and walnut salad underneath is too salty.
And our last shared dish of the night is stuffed squid, clams and kale (yes of course kale, no respectable Sydney restaurant dare be without it these days, I think they’d be blacklisted). The squid are a little overstuffed and get a little lost, but it’s a decent dish, and the clams are delicious.
We finish on a high note with a lime panacotta. Pretty to look at, and even better to eat.
SoCal, 1 Young St, Neutral Bay, Ph (02) 9904 5691