After a Roman holiday, Rhonda has reinvented herself and you won’t believe how transformative her facelift is until you see it with your own eyes.
We’re talking about the much-loved Terrigal bar Rhonda’s, which has reopened after a dramatic renovation, magically morphing from a late-night neon den into a light, bright and airy family-friendly Italian restaurant with a new look, new menu and brand new Riviera-like rooftop bar.
Usually it’s a great woman behind every great man but in this case, it’s three men who have combined their skills and passions to bring the new Rhonda to life.
After three years in business, co-founders Ty Van Emden and Scott Bayley, along with operational partner and chef Richard Wagemaker, no longer wanted their bar to be a party venue but a place where locals could linger over a long lunch, or sip cocktails in the sun, like any other seaside bar in a world class location.
As Ty puts it, Rhonda grew up.
“We didn’t want to be pigeon-holed as a late night venue – that was never our vision for Rhonda’s,” Ty says.
“I’m a local, I grew up here and I care about the community so I want to create a space that’s comfortable for everyone, especially families.”
The result of Rhonda’s reinvention is nothing short of startling.
Where punters used to break dance, they will now break bread at a ten-seater round table that Ty hopes will be the most booked table in Terrigal.
Where retro black and white wallpaper once played tricks on the eye in the dimly lit downstairs restaurant, exposed brick, cascading ferns and hanging Edison bulbs now create a trendy, industrial look while brown leather booths look classy and inviting.
Upstairs, where partygoers used to romp into the wee hours, has been opened up to the light with white-washed exposed beams, comfy cane couches, and a couple of sailboats purchased at a garage sale, all adding a beachy feel to this seaside locale.
The look and feel is the handiwork of Ty and local interior designer Kazzi.D, aka Ty’s mum. They make a great team.
Locals will be most excited about Rhonda’s new al fresco rooftop – a chic, white deck with beach views, that’s just begging you to bask in the sun and sip on an Aperol Spritz, or two.
The new drinks menu is a classic Italian line up from negronis to bellinis, plenty of prosecco and Peroni, and even a tiramisu cocktail.
The bar offering, which includes an exquisite range of bitters, has been put together by Quynh Nguyen of Ginkgo Bar & Dining pop up, Fred’s, Charlie Parkers, Matteo, Monkey’s Corner, China Diner and Luis Tans, fame.
With the new look comes an exciting new Italian food offering because, as Ty rightly observes, “The Coast deserves more premium dining experiences”.
Richard’s new pizza and pasta menu is likely to make your mouth water (even if you’re a coeliac with zucchini substituted for any pasta and GF pizza bases available).
The food is as delicious as it sounds, from the squid ink fettuccine with blue swimmer crab to the pork belly gnocchi in a consomme of truffle oil and the pizzas – proper Roman pizza with a thin, soft base – which are topped with pepperoni, parma ham, buffalo mozzarella and sopressa.
“If you’re going to do Italian, you’ve got to do it right. We’re not mucking around,” Ty says.
He’s not kidding – the kitchen is now home to a nearly two tonne pizza oven that’s insulated with volcanic rock from Mt Vesuvius and a new bread, pasta and gelato making machine.
Look out for gelato flavours like gorgonzola and quince, and just try to resist the crispy Nutella ravioli.
If you look closely, you’ll see remnants of the old Rhonda in the flamingoes dotted around the joint – a small ode to the woman who once was.
But in this light, bright new venue, offering all the best of Italy, you will no longer find a party animal but a refined Rhonda who wants to spend her days indulging in good food and wine with friends and family by the sea.
Like many businesses on the Coast, Rhonda has pivoted in style off the back of the pandemic.
Downstairs, from Thursday to Sunday, you will now find Rhonda’s Window, a small cafe and deli serving take home pasta packs, coffee, relishes, cold cuts, cheese and freshly baked organic sourdough straight out of the pizza oven. Get in quick for the sourdough – it flies out the window!
And because pizza tastes just as good (sometimes better) for breakfast, Rhonda is also offering Roman-style breaky pizzas from her new window onto the world.