Bistro Gavroche is the newest addition to Kensington Street's flourishing restaurant district. The construction hoarding downstairs might convince you otherwise but take the stairs to level one and it's like stepping into an old-fashioned French bistro straight out of the movies. There's the doorstep of mosaic tiles, an imposing wooden archway, a dark timber bar and banquette seating. Throw in a floor filled with French waitstaff and the Parisien picture is complete.
Bistrot Gavroche bar
The menu has every classic French dish you can think of: escargots snails in garlic butter, steak tartare, onion soup, tarte tatin and Crepes Suzette. The menu itself is a little unwieldy, presented in an A3 glass frame bordered with wood that's both heavy and awkward to position given that the table is already set with glasses.
Dining room seating
But the dining room offers plenty of stylised ambience, from the fresh sourdough breads stacked against one wall to the fully stocked bar to the glimpse through the pass into the kitchen. The place is packed out on a Saturday night, mostly filled with couples or small groups of friends. A few family gatherings dot the room.
As the sun sets, so does the light in the room. Mood lighting is ideal for intimacy but a small nightmare for photos.
Complimentary gougeres to start are a thoughtful welcoming gesture. The cheese puffs are room temperature but still soft and fluffy. A basket of housemade sourdough baguette and butter arrives soon afterwards. Its chewy crust is addictive and when the bread runs out, it's replenished wordlessly.
Bone marrow on sourdough bread with garlic confit and parsley $20
Our table of five is unanimous about ordering one dish. The bone marrow on sourdough causes clamours of excitement when it lands on our table. One slice of toasted sourdough is covered in slices of bone marrow, cooked enough so it wobbles lusciously but not so far that the fat has started to dissolve. Whole confit garlic cloves are gently sweet. There's not a huge amount of parsley on top, but a side of crisp salads helps offset the richness.
Grandpa Henri's baked pork terrine $18
Head chef Frederic Colin's grandfather is the inspiration for a lot of the dishes on the menu. Colins started his own restaurant career at Grandpa Henri's bistro, cooking in the kitchen from age ten. Grandpa Henri's baked pork terrine is a flashback to simpler times, a slab of chunky pork terrine encased in buttery pastry that's well-seasoned and assembled masterfully.
Grandpa Henri's traditional onion soup $16
Grandpa Henri's traditional onion soup is another winner, thick and hearty with a bonanza of onion slices cooked until fantastically sweet. On top are rafts of melted cheese on toast. It's comfort food with every spoonful.
We also order the shredded duck confit ($32) covered in a gratin of bacon and mashed potato. The duck is a little on the salty side but the potato gratin offers carb satisfaction.
Hand cut Angus beef tartare with condiments $32 main size
with french fries $8
We order the main sized hand cut Angus beef tartare, reinforcing the toasted baguette slices with a side order of french fries. The tartare is already mixed in with the egg yolk but you can reinforce its piquancy with tabasco, salt and pickles on the side. The miniature La Creuset pot holds whole pickled onions and cornichons although they feel a little chunky compared to the delicacy of the tartare.
The bucket of french fries feels neverending. The shoestring fries are deliciously crunchy. We dab them into everything, including the onion soup.
Grandpa Henri's pike fish quenelles with crayfish sauce $36
Grandpa Henri's pike fish quenelles look plain in the dish, topped with halved prawns. The quenelles themselves are quite plain on their own but the crayfish sauce is incredible. It's like an intense bisque - I could happily drink it with a spoon. I grab a baguette slice instead and dunk it in to soak up the sauce. It's the highlight of the night.
Cauliflower gratin $8
with complimentary sourdough basket in the background
We also order the Rangers Valley 270 days hanger steak ($38) cooked to a tender medium rare as requested. It's a terrifically flavoursome cut, liberally doused in a red wine and shallot jus that is silky smooth. The accompanying Lyonnaise potatoes, sauteed with onions in butter and parsley, are gratifyingly rich.
Our sides include a cauliflower gratin smothered in a cheese sauce and proving you can never have too many potatoes we also dive into a bowl of buttery mashed potato.
Crepes Suzette flambee $15
There are seven desserts on the menu including profiteroles, lemon meringue tart and dark chocolate mousse. Ordering the crepes Suzette is mandatory, especially when it comes with the spectacle of a table side flambee.
Flambee crepes Suzette with Grand Marnier sauce
A copper pot of Grand Marnier is set alight and then poured across the plate of thin crepes. It flames briefly but there's enough alcoholic residue to provide a decent kick. Fresh segmented orange provide some fresh acidity but the syrup is a little on the heavy side with sweetness.
Tarte tatin $15
We finish with the tarte tatin, stacked high with chunks of apple although much of the toffee has dissolved. The pastry is also a little underdone in parts but the vanilla ice cream is a surprise trump card.
As our dessert plates are cleared, we're surprised to find the waiter heading towards us again with a madeleine tray. We feel like kids being given a secret treat from the kitchen as we pluck out a madeleine each. The madeleines are fragrant with orange, lightly crusted on the edges with a softness in the middle.
It's a sweet finish to the night. Service was a little sketchy at times - cutlery dropped on the floor several times and some difficulty in catching the attentions of waiters when needed - but it's a pleasant venue for anyone seeking a throwback to old skool French dining. Rum fans should definitely hit the dedicated rum trolley!
1/2-10 Kensington Street, Chippendale, Sydney
+61 (02) 9281 6668
Monday to Saturday 11.30am-2.30pm, 6pm-10pm
Sunday 11.30am-3pm, 6pm-9.30pm
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4/17/2016 12:10:00 am