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Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Light Brigade Bistro, Woollahra

"Hi Helen...I’ve been looking at your fabulous blog ‘Grab Your Fork’ and I wanted to extend an invitation for you and a guest you to experience the award-winning cuisine of Chef James Privett at the Light Brigade’s Bistro..."

And that email--by Lisa from the Trish Nicol Agency--is how Suze and I find ourselves at the Light Brigade for her early celebratory birthday dinner.

Light fitting in the atrium

The Light Brigade Hotel has a long tradition of re-fuelling the thirsty. The site itself has been the location for a local watering hole as far back as 1887. I'm quite excited to be dining here tonight. In addition to recent extensive renovations and the arrival of head chef James Privett (ex-Bennelong Restaurant, the Clock Hotel, Bistro Moncur and Bistro CBD), the Light Brigade was awarded one chef's hat in the 2009 SMH Good Food Guide.

We arrive a few minutes after 6pm, so early that the street entrance hasn't even been opened and we pick our way through the softly humming bar area (with booth seating! Lovely!). A heavy glass door leads us into the bistro atrium, a huge halo of light bulbs overhead immediately catching our attention, and then squeals of excitement when we spot the gigantic clockface at the top of the stairs.

Upstairs the decor is chic and classy. Shiny bauble lamps and a deer head statue mounted on a mirror keep watch over the backlit bar, and there's an abundance of leather, shiny black and polished timber. The dining area echoes the French bistro menu with cosy and compact square tables, crisp white tablecloths and elegant Le Corbusier-style arm chairs.

The wine fridge and view into the kitchen

Sourdough bread and butter

We start with slices of still-warm sourdough bread served with butter. It's the bread that's the star tonight, the bread wonderfully soft in the middle with a distinctive but pleasant soured taste.

The two of us had spent several minutes agonising over the menu. As usual, I could have quite happily ordered one of everything on the entire entree menu. The question was not what I wanted to have, but what I could bear to leave out. We agonised and deliberated over options that included sauteed lambs brains with globe artichokes, peas and a buerre noisette ($18), salad of roast beetroot, shaved celery heart, walnuts and roquefort ($18), braised beef cheek ragout with green pea ravioli ($18) and pan-fried scallops and crisp goats cheese filled zucchini flower on pickled carrot ($19).

Seared calves liver on brioche $18
with oyster mushrooms and bordelaise sauce

The first entree we agree to share is the seared calves liver on brioche, a towering tribute to the joys of offal. Three thick slabs of liver are seared to perfection, the liver a pale shade of pink inside and so moist it's almost buttery. The brioche is a sweet counterbalance to the dish, although I find it a touch too soggy, having soaked up much of the bordelaise red wine sauce. Suze, on the other hand, finds the texture of the liver too soft for her liking, so we end up swapping the bits we don't like for the ones we do - an easy trade that pleases everyone.

Ocean trout boudin $18
with tomato, pistachio and salmon roe vinaigrette

We confess our interest in the boudin stemmed primarily from Manu Feildel's boudin of whiting featured on a recenty Celebrity Chef Challenge in the Australian Masterchef series. There's a little bit of giggling when it first arrives, a salmon pink sausage that's spooned by a tumble of micro leaves, pearls of salmon roe, chunks of pistachio and the tiniest cubes of tomato.

The boudin. Oh, it is so soft and smooth and light and airy, it's like salmon mousse on the tongue. The interplay of textures and flavours is different with every mouthful, and little fried potato dice are a surprise find, with the rich crispness of roasted potatoes.

We accompany our meal with the 2007 Felton Road Vin Gris from Central Otago, New Zealand ($14 by the glass), a recommendation by the sommelier. An unusual white wine made from pinot noir grapes, it's a slight shade of pink with a gutsy oomph.

Dining room prints

Grilled Angus sirloin $38
with maitre d'hotel butter and shoe string fries

Suze only has eyes for steak tonight, although methinks its accompaniment of fries may have been some influence. The grilled Angus sirloin is a sturdy slab of beef that's topped with maitre d'hotel butter, heady with lemon, parsley and pepper. The shoe string fries are a delight unto themself - a generous bowl of golden potato, sliced to elegant strips and fried to a pleasing crunch.

Shoe string fries

Roast lamb rump $33
with white beans, Dutch carrots, lardons and sauce diable

The roast lamb rump delivers as much fatty goodness as one could ever hope for. Four slices of juicy, succulent, plump fatty lamb rest on a bed of more-ishly starchy white beans littered with morsels of rendered salted pork belly. Dutch carrot swords offer sweetness, the entire dish doused in a flavour-rich puddle of sauce diable.

Chocolate marquise $14
with ribbons of sweet pickled rhubarb and a chocolate sorbet

However much one struggles to finish their main, there's always an extra bit of stomach space reserved for the pinnacle of dessert. The chocolate marquise is a spectacular artwork on a plate. The ribbon of chocolate biscuit is softer than we expect, its yielding nature reminding us bizarrely of Chinese haw flakes.

The chocolate marquise has a rich and dark chocolate intensity atop its dense biscuit base. The filling is featherlight and smooth, and both of us lament the textural interruption of nubbly chocolate shards on top that disturb the melt-on-the-mouth feel.

A rubble of chocolate "soil" beneath the quenelle of chocolate sorbet is another addition we aren't keen on either. The chocolate sorbet and the wafer thin ribbons of tender but tart scarlet rhubarb offer a refreshing palate cleanser.

Crisp strawberry beignets $14
on a rosemary gel with bottled cream

When we'd stood on the street outside the bistro and first looked at the menu, we'd both found our index fingers drawn simultaneously to the promise of strawberry beignet. Ordering this dish was a given, and its arrival to the table brings corresponding oohs of appreciation. I, for one, cannot stop cooing over the adorability of the petite milk bottle of cream.

We delight in pouring the cream over the orgy of sugared donuts for a lascivious money shot. The donuts are fluffy and light without any lingering aftertaste of oil. As we scrape at the pale green gel, we're hit with the flavour of rosemary, a seemingly odd combination that, strangely enough, works. The shards of fresh rosemary are a little too pungent when eaten, but the slight bitterness of the rosemary in the gel works remakably well against the tartness of strawberry, the sugar-crusted donuts and the richness of cream. There's so much already going on that the mound of strawberry preserve almost seems unnecessary on the plate.

Those beignets on the other hand, I could easily have done with several more.

Grab Your Fork dined courtesy of the Light Brigade, with thanks to Lisa from the Trish Nicol Agency.

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The Light Brigade Bistro on Urbanspoon

The Light Brigade Bistro
2A Oxford Street, Woollahra, Sydney
(corner of Jersey Road)
Tel: +61 (02) 9357 0888

Opening hours:
Dinner Tuesday - Saturday from 6pm
16 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 6/04/2009 02:37:00 am


  • At 6/04/2009 6:27 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Helen, You lucky lucky thang! My friends and I have given up on the Light Brigade (the bistro, anyway) because of its consistently bad service. However, the James Privett and strawberry beignets combination may force a rethink! Its our local so we ought to give it another chance, I suppose. Gobsmack'd

  • At 6/04/2009 9:19 am, Anonymous Howard said…

    Food looks awesome. If you judge the Hotel from the outside, you wouldn't expect the food to turn out looking this good! Good old never judge a book by it's cover cliche!

  • At 6/04/2009 9:20 am, Anonymous shez said…

    how lovely for you & suze! and OH at the carrots - i'm not an orange vege person but my-oh-my they look so cute.

    (you now, strangely enough, have mecraving haw flakes...)

  • At 6/04/2009 11:06 am, Blogger Betty @ The Hungry Girl said…

    HeHe that ocean trout boudin sure does look funny!

  • At 6/04/2009 4:45 pm, Blogger OohLookBel said…

    Adorability indeed! I wonder where you can get those cream/milk bottles from? May have to visit the restaurant to find out - the food alone looks worth the visit.

  • At 6/04/2009 4:46 pm, Anonymous Arwen from Hoglet K said…

    You make the liver sound quite nice, so it's a shame the bread was soggy. The doghnuts with rosemary and strawberries sound like an amazing flavour combination, and I love the baby milk bottle.

  • At 6/04/2009 8:34 pm, Blogger Bean Sprout's Cafe said…

    Roast lamb rump make me hungry now...

    Oh, Gena @ SWEETNESS told me that you mention about me... thanks ^ ^

  • At 6/04/2009 9:10 pm, Anonymous Teresa said…

    lovely pics Helen! This is on my list of places to try! I love the restaurants around that area... buzo (next door) is quite nice too!

  • At 6/04/2009 11:59 pm, Anonymous Cindy said…

    Do you ever post a negative review if a restaurant has given you a free meal? Just wondering if you're impartial or just give good reviews every time you get a free meal.

  • At 6/05/2009 1:21 am, Blogger lifeis2munch said…

    wow your pictures really make them all look so yummy! how was the lamb liver?

    hmmm.. next time i'm in sydney i would definitely try this one...

  • At 6/05/2009 11:36 pm, Blogger dyeo said…

    You and Suze are so lucky! The food looks amazing especially that lamb dish; succulent and juicy... :)

  • At 6/06/2009 5:33 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "There's a little bit of giggling when it first arrives"
    so mature guys :P hee hee
    Oh I was also gonna mention the brioche looks soggy as :S

    and aww no brains :( but all the dishes look really good mmm es the steak and the orgy of sugar donuts!

  • At 6/08/2009 4:22 pm, Anonymous Yas said…

    I've been to this place (bar side) a few times, but I never tried meals at restaurant side!
    The lamb and desserts look soo gooooooood!!

  • At 6/08/2009 5:05 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Gobsmack'd - We found the service so be very attentive, although we wouldn't have expected anything less when we dined :) Other customers did seem to be tended well that evening too and the strawberry beignets.... *sigh* I would go back just for those...

    Hi Howard - It's true, you wouldn't expect such a lovely bistro although this is Woollahra darling, would one expect anything less? lol

    Hi Shez - Wow, the carrots must surely have worked some magic if even you, the orange-phobe are enamoured! lol. And ha, Suze picked up on the haw flake comparison. They always remind me of my grandma, who would dispense them from her handbag as welcomed treats!

    Hi Betty - lol. Glad it wasn't just us who found it terribly amusing!

    Hi Belle - The milk bottle is so cute isn't it? Would love to know where they got it from.

    Hi Arwen - Oh I'm a big fan of liver, and I suppose that given the great pairing of strawberries and balsamic, a herbal ingredient like rosemary would also work.

    Hi Bean Sprout - Mmm... lamb rump, and lol, I was quite excited to see you are working with Gena. She has so much enthusiasm and love for her craft, I am sure you are having a ball!

    Hi Teresa - I confess I don't get up to Woollahra or Paddington that much, but it's a lovely area especially for an evening stroll. We did spend some time gazing at the cupcakes in the area too!

    Hi Cindy - I think I was reasonably impartial given my comments on the meal above - not everything was to my taste and I said as such. And whilst I do write about my experiences of meals, I liken my posts to being a brief insight into different restaurants, not a be-all-and-end-all judgement.

    I do think that trasnparency is of the utmost importance which I why I do declare if a meal has been received gratis. In this manner, readers have the full facts, and can take as much or as little salt as they deem fit :)

    Hi Globe Trotting Foodie - The lamb was excellent - perfectly good and deliciously buttery as described above. Sydney has plenty of great eats. Hope you make it to this place and many more on your next visit!

    Hi Foodie-Central - It's great that food blogs are finally being recognised as the grass-roots influencers they have become. It certainly makes those 3am bedtimes seem worth it! lol

    Hi FFichiban - I was thinking about the brains but I usually prefer them deep-fried :) And Suze gave me a funny look when I mentioned them!

    Hi Yas - I'd been keen to try the bar food, but that's because I really want to sit in one of those booths! lol. The lamb was super tender and the desserts - yum!

  • At 6/12/2009 1:36 am, Anonymous divegurl said…

    Mmmm....those strawberry beignets look divine! My little miss would be in heaven - strawberries and donuts together!

    I notice they are also in the Entertainment Book.

  • At 6/14/2009 10:06 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi divegurl - Donuts and strawberries are a very good combination indeed! I didn't realise they were in the Ent Book - the perfect excuse to head there? :)


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