In the interest expanding my foodie horizons as much as possible during my time in Sydney, I have been diligently scouring the web and reading countless restaurant reviews in order to narrow down my selection of places to visit, while still making an effort to include as many different cuisines as possible. I’m fascinated by the diversity of cultures in Sydney and since they are predominantly Asian, Greek, Lebanese or Australian, the cultural influence of cuisine is equally diverse. In my searches I happened to stumble across a lovely looking French eatery called L’Etoile; I am a big advocate of French cooking, although it is often poorly represented and very rarely has any authenticity, which is probably the reason I was so pleasantly surprised by the food at L’Etoile.
I had chosen to dine at L’Etoile purely through viewing the sample menu online, perhaps because it looks so very French; despite the somewhat mixed reviews you might find online, the restaurant definitely lives up to its name (L’etoile is French for Star). The food was, it has to be said, quite wonderful and far more French than I ever expected; the menu was simple and yet fairly robust, carefully constructed, obviously seasonal and quite enchanting. The painful pleasure came when deciding what to have, not that the menu was complex in any way, it was more due to the fact that every one of the dishes on it seemed to jump off the page at me, making the whole process increasingly confusing the more I looked at it. This, I should explain, is a problem I seem to encounter more regularly than I might let on. I seem to have a passionate love – hate relationship with good food, especially when it is presented on a well-constructed menu; a problem which is only heightened when I’m in one of my particularly indecisive moods.
To start I had the Leek Tart served with a salad of fresh goat’s curd; the dish managed to encompass both delicate and rich flavouring combined with wonderfully contrasting textures, my only complaint would be that the portion size was somewhat ambitious, particularly since this is the sort of restaurant at which one might expect to eat three, or even four courses. The decision was a tough one since other starters on the menu included a Pig’s Head Terrine and a Roasted Bone Marrow dish, both of which are the sort of thing I might otherwise have leapt at had I not been having a meat dish for my next course. For mains I had opted for the Veal Cutlet based on the recommendation of our waiter, a dish which was delightfully tender, melt-in-the-mouth creamy and packed full of meaty flavour; served with a light red wine jus and roasted vegetables. Thankfully it came in a more moderate portion size, much to my delight; a simple and well prepared meal and one I would struggle to find fault with.
To finish I went with a French classic, Vanilla Crème Brulee. I have eaten many a brulee over the years, in many different restaurants across the world and not many have blown me away or even impressed me. This was something quite unique; served in a traditionally shallow dish, although still quite substantial in size, this particular crème did not disappoint. A heavenly creamy consistency with just the right quantities of vanilla and sugar, topped with an inexplicably well measured sugar crust and served at the perfect temperature. This surprisingly delicious dish made it straight into my top 3 Crème Brulee’s of all time, a tall order for a small French restaurant in the heart of the oh-so-trendy Sydney suburb of Paddington. So despite what might have otherwise been a simply above-average French meal, the dessert had managed to lift the entire experience into a sort of French cuisine stratosphere. The service was good although perhaps inconsistent, the recommendations were spot on, however, and the wine pairing quite sublime.
If you are in Sydney and happen to be in the mood for authentic French bistro cuisine then this is certainly the place to be. The interior throws back to a bygone era of French movie glamour, the staff are predominantly French which only adds to the charm, as are the chefs, and the atmosphere is calm and inviting while the food is well rounded and inexpensive (at least for Sydney). Well worth a visit.
L’Etoile | 211 Glenmore Road, Paddington, NSW 2021 | Tel: 02 9332 1577 | www.letoilerestaurant.com.au