Coogee wouldn't quite be Coogee without Barzura. Now entering its twentieth year in business, its breathtaking views over the beach and fine modern Australian fare have long been popular features of this eastern Sydney beach suburb.
It all started when brothers, Matthew and Rodney Sen, arrived in Coogee from afar. Having grown up in England with parents who loved to entertain, they would frequently be taken to restaurants and were encouraged to cook from an early age.
Throughout the 1980s they worked in various iconic commercial kitchens and bars and, in 1987, opened La Trattoria in Bondi, a business that is still fondly remembered today. In 1991, while Matthew was opening Bondi Trattoria, Rodney travelled and worked overseas in Hong Kong, Vanuatu and the Philippines. In 1994, the brothers ‘reformed’ and Barzura opened its doors at the south end of the beach.
Rodney runs the business with several long-standing members of staff by his side, including Yuli Putu, Dave Barrie, Ketut Astawa and Jayar Praxedes Barrios, and they welcome everyone from surf locals through to seniors and professionals with young families including babies. Arguably, what makes Barzura most memorable is its breathtaking view over the bay and Wedding Cake Island, from sunrise to sunset.
Being the only north-facing restaurant in Coogee that spills out onto the beach, it has a location that many venues can only dream of. Barzura is known for its relaxed vibe – but could it be any other way in this suburb? The thriving community of Coogee is affectionately known as ‘Sydney’s seaside village’. The cuisine is highly regarded, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner from an extensive Modern Australian menu; head chef Buntoro Ignatius Bong (Boon) has been keeping things delicious and innovative in the kitchen.
Along with Matt and Rodney, Boon selects local products sourced from the likes of Belaroma Coffee (organic, Fairtrade coffee), J&D Providore (a leading provider of farm-fresh local produce in Sydney), Vic’s Premium Quality Meat and Demcos Seafoods. Some highlights of the diverse menu include the signature nasi goreng, Asian style omelette, kangaroo fillet steaks, seafood pasta, and healthy children’s meals, which are delivered to local schools providing a sustainable income for their aid project in Tanzania.
Both brothers support the local and international community. They have hosted special fundraising events at Barzura for charities including COMMITTEE ASSIST, which provides community education, including permaculture, sustainable housing, food, medical care, schooling and infrastructure to 29 orphaned children in Tanzania.
Rodney has also opened two successful yoga schools (one upstairs from the restaurant, ‘the Livingroom’ and the other in Bondi, ‘Dharma Shala’), as well as launching the Yoga Travel Company in 2013, hosting yoga retreats in Australia and abroad. Matthew has fulfilled another one of his professional dreams by purchasing the Forest Lodge Hotel in Glebe bringing service, food and craft beer to the venue and local community.
Despite taking a circuitous route to get to Coogee, Rodney and Matthew are there to stay for another twenty years at least. Matthew said, “We can still remember being sandblasted on Bondi Beach in 1974 on a holiday, but we grew to love Bondi and Coogee beaches. We’re lucky to have large extended ethnic Greek and Italian families, care of our partners, so there is always a great Sunday lunch somewhere. That’s our Sydney.”