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Monday, March 28, 2005

La Peniche, Stanmore

EDIT: La Peniche has closed

You've probably driven past La Peniche a million times on your travels up and down Parramatta Road but never realised it. Disguised amongst the bland windowed shop fronts, it is here at La Peniche where you can dine on a three-course meal plus glass of wine for a mere $30.

$30! Tell me more!

La Peniche is actually the "application" for students from the Paris International Cooking School, something which becomes immediately obvious as soon as you enter the "restaurant".

Eerily reminiscent of a high school home ec. classroom, tables are simply but neatly laid, whiteboard and kitchen utensils scatter the room and 70s-style vinyl chairs beckon pleadingly.

The dining area is tiny but owner/teacher/chef Laurent Villoing has more than enough warm and hospitality to fill the room.

Laurent works alone, acting as both maitre'd and chef: explaining each dish patiently and taking your orders before disappearing into the back kitchen to don the apron. The back kitchen brings back memories of home economics, with a number of stoves lining both walls and a large island bench in the middle. The menu involves pre-cooked elements by students (hence the low prices) but much of it is cooked by Laurent to-order. And of course everything is heated and plated accordingly.

But first we were immediately presented with complimentary starters.

Complimentary starters: Russian herb and cheese tartlets.

Our choice of wines this evening were:

  • Domaine de Castagnolle semillon savignon blanc from Gascony near Bordeaux, France.
  • 2002 Grenache Mourvedre from northern Victoria, Australia.

  • I had the white (how could I resist French wine?)

    Entree: Cheese and fresh herb omelet

    Divine. Omelettes are those deceptively difficult things... relatively easy to create, but propelled to another stratosphere when under the guidance of a master. We watched Laurent whip up these three-egg omelettes in a jiffy with such little effort. Lightly browned on the exterior, soft and fluffy on the interior. Oh, so good.

    The other entree option was a soup of "Autumn Cream of Country Vegetables".

    Optional mid-course: 1/2 dozen garlic snails surcharge $6.00

    6 snails for $6.00? How could we refuse? Apparently these babies are imported from Perigord and we found these snails very strong in er, snail flavour, which is good or bad depending on whether you're eating this dish for the snails, or the garlicky oil goodness. Me? Licked. Plate. Clean.

    Mains option 1: Chicken grand-mere style with gratin-style potatoes and tomato Provencal-style

    Mains Option 2: Poached smoked haddock fillet and lemon sauce with duchesse style potatoes

    Garden salad with French dressing (accompanies the haddock)

    I taste-tested everything (of course) and absolutely adored the Provencal tomato. Cooked perfectly so, the flesh remained firm but yielding, and the topping of breadcrumbs, garlic, olive oil and parsley was perfect.

    Dessert Option 1: Charlotte Romaine-style

    Dessert Option 2: Cherries and liquor souffle

    I almost didn't order the souffle, but in the interests of gastronomic equality it felt only fair to do so. Oh, how glad I was I had. We peeked into the kitchen at Laurent whipping up egg whites into a frenzy and within 8 minutes a beautifully risen souffle was presented before us.

    Did I mention the gasp-inducing level of height? Let's have another side-on look shall we?

    Enough to take your breath away. The clincher is sinking your spoon into the soft fluffy pillow of meringue, raising it to your drooling mouth and then swallowing slowly, as your eyes momentarily close with bliss...

    Oh. Sorry. Back to the story.

    The meringue crust had the tacky caramelly sweetness of pavlova, the interior was like a cloud of cherry-hinted soft marshmallow, and the bottom hid a treasure trove of fresh cherries.

    La Peniche (CLOSED)
    216 Parramatta Road, Stanmore
    Tel: 02 9518 1066

    $30 dinners Friday and Saturday nights only (book in advance. Menu changes daily)
    $42 food and wine matching (6 courses with matching wines) on selected dates
    $49 cooking demonstration and native Australian lunch - Mon, Wed and Fri
    $29 native Australian lunch only - Mon, Wed and Fri
    5 comments - Add some comment love

    posted by Anonymous on 3/28/2005 11:52:00 pm


    • At 3/29/2005 4:13 am, Blogger Ms One Boobie said…

      Wow! AG.. can't believe all these for only $30..!! Wow!!
      Give me..!! Give me..!!

    • At 3/29/2005 5:22 pm, Blogger Veruca Salt said…

      Not normally a cherry fan but souffle had that chewy goodness that I love so much from pavlovas.

      Good night out. Les Mes soundtrack softly playing in the background, small intimate room, no loud rowdy customers.

      Trying to talk AG into doing a couple of cooking classes with me.

    • At 3/30/2005 2:43 pm, Blogger pinkcocoa said…

      hey AG
      I want the potato gratin and the duchess style potato!!! *yum* Does the chef actually whip up all 3 courses in front of you guys?

    • At 4/01/2005 5:44 pm, Blogger pinkcocoa said…

      hey AG
      u bet I am. hehehe. I eat the starch first before the protein. Bad thing to do :p
      Was there just the one chef in there who served and cooked? This place is interesting!

    • At 4/10/2005 8:21 pm, Blogger DiveMummy said…

      God bless French cooking. What a great place to try snails.


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