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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Mere Catherine, Potts Point

Lucifer soup

EDIT: Mere Catherine has closed 

Intimate and cosy are the first two words I'd use to describe Mere Catherine, an old-fashioned (some would say "retro") French bistro in Potts Point that has fostered a legion of loyal fans over the years.

It used to be that one would have to knock at the heavy door of Mere Catherine, whereupon the curtains would twitch slightly, and, legend has it, Nanette would peer out the window and decide whether she would open the door or not. In its current location, the door is unlocked, but the windows are still curtained and the diners inside a mystery of voices and laughter until you enter.

French onion soup

If you happened to trip over the three steep entrance steps, you would most certainly land in the lap of the diners at table number three. The dining room is tiny, packed tightly with tables that seat a maximum of 18 inside (15 outside) according to their dining licence.

Nanette arrives with menus and the blackboard of specials under one arm. On the Sunday night we dined, there is only one other party in the restaurant, the intimacy of the evening enhanced by the flicker of candles on our table and the gentle hum of rain pounding the pavement outside.

Chateaubriand with garlic butter

It is with some horror that I realise early on in the evening that although I've brought my camera, the battery for it remains at home, still happily sitting in the charger from a few days before. The G-man comes to the rescue, doing a marvellous job taking photos by the romantic but photographically challenging flicker of candlelight (Thanks G-man! My photos would never have turned out as well!).

So I spend the evening simply enjoying my meal, admiring the way Nanette delivers our French onion soup, whisking a single egg yolk for each person at the table, then whisking it industriously into the soup along with a slurp of brandy. The soup is thick and hearty, a little on the salty side for my palate, but the flavours are deep and genuine.

The Lucifer soup is a creamy concoction that warms the belly, generous with leeks and butter, leaving an alcoholic hiccup and a gentle tingle of chilli on the tongue.

Pork loin fillet with mustard and fruits

Mains are priced at the mid $30 mark to the low forties but one mouthful of the butteriest plump mouthful of chateaubriand is enough to guarantee every assurance of "value". There is a collection of suggestive sighs and groans around the table. Everything is tender: the beef, the pork, the duck, as well. And the sauces are delicious too, the bearnaise sauce the best version I've ever had, a vision in golden sunshine that is smooth and silky, the balance of vinegar cutting marvellously through the richness, in a sauce that tastes as though it was made two minutes ago, not two weeks ago like many I'd encountered.

Chateaubriand with Bearnaise sauce

Chateaubriand with pepper sauce

Roast duck with green peppercorns

Our mains appear small at first glance, but we're reassured by the complimentary accompaniment of roasted potatoes and creamed spinach. The creamed spinach is crowned with a layer of molten cheese, blistered to a speckled golden brown. The roasted potatoes glisten with oil but are worth every calorie, their faintly crisp surface giving way to a mother's cuddle of tender softness.

"Are they cooked in goose fat, or duck fat?" I ask Nanette. She smiles coyly and says "I'm not sure, maybe, but the chef does use a few special ingredients."

There's no response from solo chef Gerard Humair, who not only cooks but also washes dishes, and I observe through the half-drop curtain.

Creamed spinach

Roasted potatoes

We struggle to finish our mains, and yet, inexplicably, still have an appetite for dessert. We take the easy option, ordering one of each and a collection of spoons to share.

Creme caramel

They're all irresistibly good. Creme caramel is a of eggy custard, awash in a puddle of sweet caramel. We're not fans of the chocolate sprinkles, but the chocolate mousse itself exhibits a genuine bitterness of dark chocolate that pleases the resident chocolate mousse fanatic especially (amid some resentment that he's had to share it with five other dive bombing spoons).

Chocolate mousse

Profiteroles are light and airy, punctuated with a splodge of brandy custard. But I'm completely won over by the meringue sandwiched with Chantilly cream, a concoction that must be bashed with our spoon, the crumble of sugary debris contrasting deliciously with the generous piping of cream.

Profiteroles with cream

Nanette comes over to our table throughout the evening, almost clucking with approval at our plates licked clean. I'm not sure who is happier: we, or her.

Meringue with Chantilly cream

Mere Catherine (CLOSED)
166 Victoria St, Potts Point, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9358 2000

Open for dinner 7 days from 6.30pm

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
French - Bistrot Gavroche, Chippendale
French - Hubert, Sydney
French - Hubert Bridge Bon Appetit, Sydney
5 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 4/20/2008 08:54:00 pm


  • At 5/13/2008 6:11 pm, Blogger Gun said…


    How come I missed this one??

    Man, have to find my way back there again. :)

  • At 5/14/2008 10:52 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Gun - lol. I'm sure you will!

  • At 8/07/2008 5:09 pm, Blogger MrsFish said…

    I'm so happy to hear Mere Catherine lives on in a new location (maybe this is common knowledge and I just wasn't paying attention)! I thought it had closed.
    Yesterday I was reminded of fabulous meals there when I attended a lunch and book signing by Tobie Puttock at Jonah's Whale Beach. He cited Petrelle as his favourite overseas Italian restaurant. It sounded like Mere Catherine right down to the ground, including the Dishwasher who doubled as the Sommelier.

  • At 8/14/2008 11:14 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Margaret - Ahh isn't it great when you find a restaurant you thought had long since closed :) Hope you get to re-live some memories at Mere Catherine soon!

  • At 7/20/2016 4:07 pm, Blogger Nick Jordan said…

    This looks great. Just found out I'm going for my b'day next week. Looking forward to butter explosion!


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