It's the kind of restaurant that makes you chat to diners at other tables as if you're all sharing an intimate confidence together. Funnily enough on the evening we went, there were three women in the room, and all of their names were Jackie! Now what's the chance on that?
The chef Jean-Francois Salet is an ex-celebrity chef (he did some time on My Restaurant Rules) and he avoids trends, focuses on produce and visits the markets himself. I thought the Wapengo Lake Oysters ($3.00 each) served with wedges of lemon and an icy shallot dressing were probably some of the nicest oysters I have tried, so they show that the chef cares about good produce.
By the way, each dish on the menu is matched with a by-the-glass wine selection ($8-$13), and the well-priced list includes home-grown wines and wines from France, New Zealand and Argentina. I thought this was a great idea, particularly if you want to learn more about wine, but are scared of committing to a whole bottle that you may not enjoy.
Probably my favourite dish of the night was the De-Boned Quail Pastilla with Pistachio, Grape and Fennel Salad ($17) which set a high bench mark for mains to surpass. It was basically a whole deboned quail inside a pastry casing, and it was the first time I have really enjoyed a non-Asian styled Quail dish. (For my favourite Asian-styled Quail check out this post about Rambutan.)
The Crispy Berkshire Pork, Onion Jam Puree and Baby Herbs ($18) was also a wonderful entree. Both entrees were quite dense, so I went with a vegetarian main, and I was not at all disappointed. The Pea & Zucchini Risotto with Truss Tomatoes and Parmesan Cream ($26) was quite a dish. There were more vegetables in it than rice (something the chef was quite proud of) and it made for a very green, healthy tasting meal that made my body feel good.
Never afraid of doubling up on big flavours (unlike me), Craig went with the Duck Two-Ways with Shallot, Artichoke and Confit Tomato Tartlet ($35) and it was very impressive. It was the most expensive main, but with the amount of work that went into it, I can see why.
So with my body crying out: 'Go Health!', I finally was actually able to enjoy a dessert (rather than feel sick) because of a less intense main choice. That meant that I leaped at the rich Chocolate Fondant with Milk Ice Cream ($14). Milk flavoured icecream is totally divine by the way!
One of the other Jackies offered me a sample taste of her summery Rhubarb and Strawberry Tartlet with Olive Oil Sorbet ($14) which was also great. It really demonstrated that desserts are worth saving room for... and that small intimate restaurants where you meet other diners are the most fun.
Jackie (the dessert sharing one) suggested that the Saint Germain Patisserie in Redfern does the best Almond Croissants in Sydney. I feel the need to test her suggestion soon!
411 Bourke Street, Darlinghurst
Ph: (02) 9380 2622
Saint Germain Patisserie
88 Rosehill Street, Redfern
Ph: (02) 9319 7161