It's back. The Restaurant Arras petits fours platter has always created a frisson of excitement.
Back too are newly weds Adam and Lovaine Humphrey, relocating Restaurant Arras from Walsh Bay to Clarence Street in the city, opening in the former digs of Becasse (and before that, Edna's Table).
The interior has undergone a complete makeover. Gone are the Swarovski crystal chandeliers and cosy intimacy. It's brighter and lighter now, with specially upholstered Paul Smith chairs and a contemporary wall artwork developed from the same colours of the chairs. The design brief was to create a "modern grown-up restaurant" with an emphasis on acoustics, and the ability for diners to have a conversation. Arras is the first restaurant in Australia to use LED lighting throughout the premises - an expensive initial outlay but one that will provide long-term energy efficiency.
House-baked organic breads: Sushi bread and Happy Goblin beer bread
At last week's media preview dinner, an excited Adam Humphrey explained they didn't want the restaurant to be pigeon-holed as "British food" anymore. "We want to create something that's different to everything else in Sydney," he said. Only one dish from the former menu has survived the move to the new premises.
The staggering bread selection remains. Lovaine Humphrey confesses that up fourteen different breads are baked in-house everyday, served to diners in the restaurant or available for sale in the ArrasToo bakery next door (where Plan B used to be).
Sushi bread is one of the more intriguing offerings - a sourdough rolled up with nori seaweed and rolled in black and white sesame seeds.
Amuse bouche: beetroot jelly
Diners at Arras can choose from two menu options:
- four course a la carte $120
- degustation $140 accompanying wine $80
Tomato and onion salad
Our first course is a tomato and onion salad, a simple yet elegant tribute with the exterior studded with baby basil leaves and the core filled with a light goats cheese mousse. A sliver of onion bread is crisp and buttery, and has been impressively constructed to resemble an onion in appearance too.
Bonito, dried tuna, courgette and aubergine
Bonito and dried tuna has strong notes of fishiness, both in the oily fish bonito and the rounds of dried tuna that remind me of Asian cuttlefish jerky. Courgette slices have a deliciously smoky char and the aubergine puree is wondrously velvety and smooth.
Roast lamb and spring greens
Meat and three veg gets a complete overhaul with our next course: roast lamb and spring greens. Junee lamb is cooked to a reassuring pink, although it's the lamb rib that I enjoy most. The fattiness of the lamb marries well with the bed of nutty barley, and fresh peas and broad beans add colour and freshness.
It's interesting to note that the dishes appear tighter in flavours and more focused in presentation than my dinner at Arras earlier this year at Walsh Bay. Gone too are the cryptic dish names on the menu which, whilst whimsical with names like "Plate for Mr McGregor" and "Ta Jean", were more confusing than helpful when it came to ordering.
Pistachio and pineau trifle
Dessert is the pistachio and pineau trifle, deconstructed and strewn artfully across the plate with chunks of pistachio cake, slices of strawberry and curling logs of jelly dotted with cream. Pineau is a French fortified wine.
Arras petits fours
It's amazing how a giant platter of sweets turns every adult into a giggling greedy schoolkid. The slate board from the original Arras has been replaced with a custom-designed perspex tray, complete with holes to accommodate ice cream cones - tonight's ice cream is crossiant, scooped onto homemade ice cream cones.
Sweet tooth heaven
Tonight's petits fours have gone decidedly more whimsical, with a deliberate shift to the sweets of Adam and Lovaine's childhood. There are coconut ices and Jammy Dodgers and lollipops and more. It takes each waiter about 60 seconds to point out and identify every confection, by which time most diners have forgotten the ones at the start and ask for a reminder all over again.
Crossiant ice cream, pecan fudge, strawberry Yorkshire pudding,
honeycomb, peanut brittle and chocolates
Diners get their own perspex tray to hold their wares. "Take as many as you like," we're encouraged repeatedly. A large circle in the tray the perfect spot to rest an ice cream cone, with smaller holes drilled to hold lollipops in place.
The crossiant ice cream tastes buttery, and the cone is delicately crisp. It's hard to go past the easy pleasures of honeycomb and peanut brittle, but the Yorkshire pudding is addictive too, reminding me of a cannele with its caramelised chewiness.
Restaurant Arras head chefs and owners Lovaine and Adam Humphrey
It's a fun finish to a impressive first night's service. Builders had only left the premises 45 minutes prior to our arrival, we're told.
The more centralised location should finally open up Arras to a new market of appreciative diners. This could just well be the sweet spot for Arras and hungry Sydneysiders.
Grab Your Fork attended the media preview dinner as a guest of Arras.
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Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Restaurant Arras (Mar 2011 at Walsh Bay)
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10/31/2011 12:50:00 am