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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

La Guillotine, Sydney

big biscotti
Escargots cuits dans leurs coquilles avec un beurre a l' ail $12.00
Snails cooked in their shells with garlic and parsley butter (1/2 dozen)

I never made it to La Guillotine when it was in its original location in Albion Place. Back then, I'm told, it was housed in a dungeon-like basement, and the decor, in a gloomy atmosphere befitting its name, was dominated by its prison-like steel bars, rough hewn benches and thickly-painted red walls reminiscent of dripping blood.

La Guillotine

Today La Guillotine resides in a much classier building, with lovely windows, warm wooden fittings and romantic candles on every table. It's a world apart from its former incarnation, even though (ironically) it's only geographically around the corner (the old site was overtaken by developers).

The staff remain the same though, and my dining companions, regular visitors to the La Guillotine of old, remark that the staff don't look as if they've aged a bit. "They look younger, in fact", I'm told in a shocked whisper.

garlic prawns
Crevettes marinées a l' ail et cuites dans un poelon d'huile $18.00
Prawns marinated in garlic and cooked in a sizzling pot of oil

We start with a serve of garlic prawns, whose sticky sweet aromas waft over us beguilingly. The prawns are super fresh and the oil is pure bliss... a mass of caramelised garlicky goodness awaits on the bottom, quickly mopped up dry with freshly carved slices of warm and crusty artisan bread.

The utensil for the escargots flummoxes me at first as I fumble with it clumsily. "Don't you remember that scene from Pretty Woman?" I am chided. Obviously not. Eventually they are lifted and the garlic butter drenched snails are carefully prised free before disappearing with rapidity into my vampire-safe stomach.

Les omelettes foie de volaille $11.00
Omelette with chicken liver (3 eggs)

Our omelette arrives in a beautiful golden colour, a series of soft cooked liver treasures hiding underneath.

omelette with chicken liver

The omelette is light but a little flatter than I had expected. For some reason we had all anticipated that it would come filled and folded over in half.

tournedo rossini
Tournedo Rossini servi sur un lit de pomme lyonnaise $41.00
Beef fillet topped with a slice of Foie Gras, port wine sauce
and sauté potatoes with onions

The tournedo rossini is a decadent meal which suits the voracious appetite of its intended recipient. The meat is tender, the potatoes are tasty and the foie gras adds another level of superior indulgence.

lamb cutlets
Cotelettes d'agneau grilles aux herbes de provence,
beurre a la moutarde a l' ancienne, ratatoville et pomme purée $30.00
Char-grilled lamb cutlets with herbs. Whole grain mustard butter,
ratatouille and mash potatoes

The lamb cutlets usually come with mash but a request for frites is happily conceded. Four juicy lamb cutlets arrive well-done but still tender.

tournedo rossini
Chateaubriand béarnaise et pomme frites $32.00
Char-grilled fillet of beef served with a shallot and tarragon sauce
served with fries

I have the chateaubriand which is deceptively substantial, especially given the rich bearnaise sauce which I find a little tangy on the tongue. I'm not a bearnaise sauce fan though, and I cannot but feel some resentment at the way the sauce overtakes the strong meaty flavours inherent in the beef.

The meat is on the rarer side of medium rare, but it is soft, well-rested and a joy to cut. The frites are crunchy elegant straws albeit a little oily, but the accompanying salad helps cut through the grease, especially with the sweet almost honey-like balsamic dressing on top.

Downstairs we can't resist peeking into the open kitchen, admiring the cosy banquette seating and peering at the Parisian-themed etchings along one wall.

Back upstairs a pair of regulars rest on stools at the bar and chat in French with an air of relaxed familiarity. It makes me smile as I head towards them, weaving my way through couples at narrow tables, in order to reach for a business card. As I head back to my table with card in hand, I look down and realise that all their cards have been guillotined at the bottom edge. It's simple but elegant. Serious but charming. The French have that knack for winning you over.

La Guillotine business card
La Guillotine
518 Kent Street Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9264 1487

Lunch Monday to Friday
Dinner Monday to Saturday (5.30pm till late)
4 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Anonymous on 6/21/2006 11:56:00 pm


  • At 6/22/2006 9:24 am, Blogger Veruca Salt said…

    Brings back such good memories.

    Had only been to new site twice as I was a little dirty over menu change and increase in prices.

    Although I miss the twist of orange garnish & little pot of cheesy gratinated potatoes that accompanied nearly every meal, I concede that menu has matured and pricing matches quality of food offered.

    I now forgive Joseph.

    BF & I will be adding them back to our favourites list.

    ps. Little woman in kitchen is not his mother. Me thinks it's the wife.

  • At 7/17/2006 9:56 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    La Guillotine is indeed an experience to be had... up until the 3rd and final visit.

    My Girlfriend and I chose to dine here before a big night out and found that the food was mediocre at best. With a dinner party sitting downstairs we felt ignored as our food was rushed out to us. Where was our fresh pepper!? The mussels, despite having had an exceptional few last time, tasted old and fishy, and the chips were soggy and oily. Perhaps it's the lack of physical 'maturness' we both attain, maybe because they were busy? Regardless, it left a bitter feeling in both of our stomachs.

    Despite that, our previous experiences were definately worthwhile. The steak with green peppercorn sauce, and the tournedo rossini are definately hits and would have me coming again for more. After all, it allowed me to first taste the decadent pleasure that is foie gras.

    Loving the Blog! Thanks!

  • At 10/18/2006 1:56 am, Blogger Kat said…

    I peeked into this restaurant about a year ago and vowed to try it but I forgot the name. I have a weakness for French food so this is looking like a candidate for the Christmas pampering to which I will soon be entitled. ;-)

  • At 7/09/2015 1:02 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    yayayay Im going Europe soon and I want to try this place in anticipation! Those escargots yuum. But wheres the dessert Helen? :O


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