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Saturday, January 19, 2008

La Boheme Restaurant and Cafe, Balmain

Skvarky duck cracklings with bread complimentary

The duck cracklings do not look as I expect. The uninitiated, like I, expect a duck crackling to perhaps be a little like a pork crackling. What's presented instead is a dish of light brown paste, covered in a thin layer of fat - it looks a little like a pate but tastes a little sweeter in a caramelised sense. The paste is smooth and deliciously addictive. Then we find out what duck cracklings really are: duck fat cooked down with leftover strips of duck skin until golden brown and crisp. No wonder it tastes so good.

I'm dining with a happy crowd of feasters at La Boheme, a Czech restaurant and beer cafe all but hidden on Balmain's Darling Street. Its modest entrance--a small sign pointing you up a few steps and into a narrow arcade--gives no indication of the impressiveness of the building that awaits, the former Balmain Working Mens Institute that is now Heritage-listed.

Herb marinated camembert with fruit toast $11.50

Our group of eleven attack the menu with gusto, starting off by sharing a number of entrees. A small wheel of camembert has been drizzled with herbs and melted slightly in the oven.

Fried mushrooms filled with Mello cheese $9.50

Golden orbs of button mushrooms have been crumbed and deep-fried, filled with a soft cheese that has turned gooey and stretchy.

Norwegian smoked salmon $11.90
with herb croutons, cucumber salad and dill dressing

Norwegian smoked salmon coils rest on a bed of lettuce, its richness tempered by the delicate strips of pickled cucumber and a dish of cooling dill and yoghurt.

Homemade duck pate $10.50
with cranberry sauce and toast

But the table favourite is the homemade duck pate, a meaty slab that is packed with flavour and hearty duck shreds.

La Boheme pork roulade $21.90
served with pepper jus and basmati rice

Our dishes arrive reasonably quickly, and within minutes we start to regret ordering so many starters. Few can finish their meals.

Jager chicken schnitzel $19.90
with mushroom sauce and potato mash

Golden roasted duck $25.90
based on an old Czech recipe accompanied by red cabbage,
sauerkraut and potato dumplings

Traditional Bavarian feast platter $49.00 for two
Chef's selection of roasted duck, chicken schnitzel, wood smoked kassler rib,
smoked pork ribs, European sausages, sauerkraut and dumplings

Hungarian beef goulash $15.50
served in a sourdough bread pot

Green beans $6.00

Char grilled duck breast $24.90
with honey and orange sauce and roasted potatoes

Grilled pork knuckle $21.50
with mustard, horseradish and Bavarian bread

I'd gone for halves in the grilled pork knuckle and the golden roasted duck. The pork knuckle is a little salty and perhaps a tad dry and overcooked, but its presentation on a chopping board with a knife plunged into the pork, still makes my heart skip a beat.

The golden roasted duck is tender, its skin caramelised to a brittle crunch. I also sample some of the ribs from the meat platter, which although soft and juicy, are so rich with smokiness that I'm glad I hadn't opted for the ribs as a main (I'd been sorely tempted).

Traditional Crepes Suzette $12.50

And yet somehow dessert finds its way to the emergency stomach. We're a little disappointed that the Crepes Suzette isn't set alight but the serving of hot raspberries and vanilla ice cream is enormous, the sticky berries not overly sweet.

We loved the atmosphere here, the cavernous hall is warmed by plenty of wooden furniture, a fully stocked bar and Medieval-style light fittings that hang overhead.

Hot raspberries served on vanilla ice cream $10.50

La Boheme Restaurant and Cafe
Rear Mans Institute Arcade
Shop 9, 332 Darling St, Balmain, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9810 0829

Monday to Thursday 6.00pm-11.00pm
Friday to Saturday 12.00pm - 12.00am
Sunday 12.00pm - 10.00pm

BYO wine corkage $3 per person (only available Monday to Thursday)

Related GrabYourFork posts:
Doma Bohemian Beer Cafe
Prague Czech Beer Restaurant
7 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 1/19/2008 06:37:00 pm


  • At 1/20/2008 6:58 am, Blogger Y said…

    Wow. The pork knuckle looks like it came from the leg of Godzilla and the schnitzel looks like it's a crumbed version of Big Bird's foot.

  • At 1/20/2008 7:14 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Awesome meal. :) love all the pictures.

  • At 1/20/2008 9:02 am, Blogger Sarah said…

    Hey Helen!

    That food looks amazing!!!! I love the middle European cuisine - roast duck, dumplings, cabbage etc. Yum!!!

    xox Sarah

  • At 1/20/2008 11:42 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Mmm that looks great. Sounds like the kind of place that would be fabulous for Winter time-although the rain in Sydney now probably qualifies as wintry! How does the duck compare to Doma Bohemian cafe?

  • At 1/22/2008 1:09 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Y - lol. You won't go hungry here. The knuckle was humungous!

    Hi Mama Bok - Thanks. Glad you enjoyed them :)

    Hi Sarah - Hey hey, how are you?!? The stodgy stuff always works well in winter, but omg I am loving your Japan posts. So many flashbacks! I miss my 100 yen stores! lol

    Hi Lorraine E - It does feel like winter at the moment. Crazy times! I think the duck was better here, but Doma was oh so long ago. lol. I do sometimes struggle with European duck though, accustomed as I am to fatty juicy Chinese-style roast duck. Mmm... I'm craving spring onions, hoi sin and pancakes now...

  • At 10/16/2009 1:46 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I recently discovered the cafe courtyard area of La Boheme (out the front). It is a great place to grab breakfast or Lunch and a cool Czech beer.
    I also wanted to say you should come over and do some more reviews of Balmain restaurants. Pomegranate Thai on Darling St towards East Balmain is a fantastic place. It is a mid to higher end eatery, with some more unusual and authentic dishes than the standard Thai fare found in Balmain. The Pla Grob are to die for.

  • At 10/17/2009 9:28 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Tristansender - I know I should get to Balmain more often - a bit of a pity that parking is always so scarce! Thanks for the tips though - will have to keep them in mind in future!


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