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Friday, July 15, 2011

La Brasserie, Darlinghurst

Every Sunday, says Jacques Reymond, he smells disaster in his neighbourhood.

"It's the smell of burning meat. Australians burn their meat until it's black." He shakes his head in dismay. "To cook meat you need to be gentle." He can't understand the Australian appreciation for charred protein.

Reymond, head chef and owner of the three-hat Jacques Reymond - Cuisine du Temps in Melbourne, is visiting Sydney as an ambassador for De Dietrich kitchen appliances. We're at a media luncheon at La Brasserie in Darlinghurst, featuring a special Bastille Day menu.

Vintage posters at La Brasserie

It's my first visit to La Brasserie, a warm and cosy bistro with Parisian charm. Vintage posters line the walls and there's even a piano by the bar at the front.

Entree option 1: Salade de Crabe
Remoulade of crab and celeriac with avocado and grapefruit

Suze and I have carefully coordinated our pre-selections so we cover all options on the Bastille Day menu. The crab and celeriac remoulade is one of the most popular choices, the sweet crab lifted by the nuttiness of celeriac, a refreshing segement of grapefruit and a delicate dice of avocado dressed with extra virgin olive oil.

Entree option 2: Pate en croute
Rabbit and pork terrine in pastry with pistachios and onion confiture

I'd chosen the pate en croute, a thin slice of rabbit and pork terrine set in a delicate layer of pastry. The terrine is hearty yet elegant, with whole pistachios providing a welcome crunch. A quenelle of confit onion is deliciously tacky and sweet.

Jacques Reymond

We break briefly to watch Jacques Reymond demonstrate how he uses induction cooktops to prepare a fried asparagus and shimeji mushroom warm salad. It's interesting to see how he borrows heavily from Asian cuisine to prepare this dish, using wakame seaweed, rice wine vinegar and shimeji mushrooms to accent more classically French ingredients, like asparagus and Roquefort blue cheese.

Jacques Reymond adding the garnish to his fried asparagus and shimeji mushrooms

La Brasserie head chef David Bransgrove

In the meantime, the kitchen is quietly working on our main courses. It's quite a large kitchen out the back, and offers a clear view of all the action to anyone en route to the bathroom.


The pass

Mains option 1: Magret de Canard
Roast duck breast with sweet potato fondant and sauce rouannaise

Roast duck breast, we're told, is a specialty of the south-western provinces of France. Here it's served with a sauce rouannaise, a classic Bordelaise -- red wine, bone marrow, butter, shallots and demi-glace brown sauce -- enriched with pureed duck liver.

The duck is succulent with a layer of fat and a thin crisp skin. Whole green peppercorns add a piquancy that helps cut through the richness of the dish.

Mains option 2: Selle d'agneau farci a la forestiere
Slow roasted lamb saddle with wood mushrooms, smoked potato mousseline and sauce madiera

I'd opted for the slow roasted lamb saddle, a dish so glorious that I'm reluctant to swap plates halfway with Suze. The lamb is soft and tender, but it's the thick layer of fat and the veneeer of caramelised skin that makes me glad I'm sitting down, lest I swoon.

The lamb saddle is stuffed with wood mushrooms, adding an earthiness that is complemented by a wondrous smoked potato mousseline. My favourite part of this dish is the deep fried sage leaves, shattering in the mouth with a salty crunch.

Jacques Reymond with Grant Jones, Food Editor for the Daily Telegraph

Vincent Gadan

Our dessert today has been prepared by Vincent Gadan, executive chef at Patisse. Whatever you do, he says, don't go on MasterChef - referring to his recent appearance on an Immunity Challenge where he, a pastry chef, was challenged to prepare a perfect roast pork dinner.

Gadan is cheeky and enthusiastic, easily winning over the crowd with his melodious French accent and boyish charm. His demonstration involves preparing a creme brulee which he says is easier with induction due to precise temperature control and speed of heating. Pastry chefs, he says, are always jumping up and down with impatience, waiting for components to heat up or boil.

He has no time for vanilla essences, using only the best vanilla beans he can find. Once a vanilla bean has been scraped or steeped in milk, he washes the used vanilla bean and then places the pod into a container of sugar to create a beautifully scented and flavoured vanilla sugar.

Vincent Gadan blowtorching creme brulees

Finished creme brulees

Vincent Gadan and David Bransgrove plating the madeleines

Gadan has prepared three miniature desserts, including a madeleine which he says is loved by all French people. This buttery sponge cake is Guillaume Brahimi's absolute favourite, he claims, whom he worked with during his stint at Guillaume at Bennelong.

Dessert service

Clockwise from top left: Creme brulee a la vanille; madeleine avec creme diplomat 
and sabyon de fruits rouge

The trio of desserts offers a perfect end to our meal. A rich sabayon -- made from egg yolks, sugar and champagne -- has been spooned over mixed berries and blowtorched, garnished with a shard of crystallised violet.

Creme brulee is silky smooth and fragrant with vanilla bean, but it's the madeleine that proves most addictive, soft and buttery with a sugar-crusted shell.

Jacques Reymond, head chef Jacques Reymond - Cuisine du Temps

Vincent Gadan, executive chef of Patisse

View Larger Map
La Brasserie on Urbanspoon

118 Crown Street, Darlinghurst, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9358 1222

Opening hours:
Lunch Thursday and Friday 12pm-3pm
Dinner Monday to Sunday 6pm-10pm

Grab Your Fork attended the Bastille Day lunch at La Brasserie as a guest of De Dietrich and Weber Shandwick.

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Bastille Day dinner at La Peniche, Stanmore
24 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 7/15/2011 02:47:00 am


  • At 7/15/2011 4:42 am, Blogger Miss T said…

    I love Vincent Gadan! did you kiss him? just a little bit? I would have. And probably would have been arrested too...lucky duck!
    Miss T x

  • At 7/15/2011 5:01 am, Blogger Lola said…

    Oh, Monsieur Gadan, swoon! He's so dishy, must agree with Miss T. Oh and yes, the food looks lovely too ;)

  • At 7/15/2011 8:08 am, Anonymous Tina @ bitemeshowme said…

    La Brasserie was literally around the corner from my old work! I should have known and went. Anyways, what a hottie Vincent Gadan is. His accent is breath-taking ;)

  • At 7/15/2011 8:46 am, Anonymous Chris said…

    Vincent Gadan, lucky you! I was drooling over his accent throughout that episode....

  • At 7/15/2011 9:15 am, Anonymous Dumpling Girl said…

    What a meal Helen, every course looks absolutely delectable.

  • At 7/15/2011 9:28 am, Anonymous gastronomous anonymous said…

    this looks superb! La Brasserie has been on my list of places to go for a while now... and Vincent Gadan - LUCKY YOU! great review :)

  • At 7/15/2011 9:35 am, OpenID lateraleating said…

    I'd be reluctant to swap any of the dishes you had :)

  • At 7/15/2011 9:40 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    but helen! sharing is caring! and mmm french accents :P

  • At 7/15/2011 10:37 am, OpenID minibites said…

    What a treat! La Brasserie is so old school glamour and genuine French accents from wait staff! :D

  • At 7/15/2011 10:43 am, Anonymous Minh said…

    That lamb saddle looks AMAZING!

  • At 7/15/2011 11:54 am, Blogger Two fit and fun gals said…


  • At 7/15/2011 12:35 pm, Anonymous shaun@everybodylovesramen said…

    The lamb saddle & the desserts are making my mouth water :D

    I felt so bad for Vicent Gadan on the masterchef challenge -- he looked totally ambushed! Would have been a little embarrassing. (but surely he knew?? dont know..)

  • At 7/15/2011 1:11 pm, Blogger Jasmin said…

    I wouldn't have wanted to share that Lamb either. Looks amazing.

    I love La Brasserie, I've had so many amazing meals there (Before Blog) and I regret not blogging about them then.

    I think it's definitely time for a revisit.

  • At 7/15/2011 1:41 pm, Anonymous Hannah said…

    That terrine slice is just gorgeous! And that Masterchef challenge was ridiculous, and not just ebcause I wanted to see pretty desserts be

  • At 7/15/2011 3:19 pm, Anonymous Nic@diningwithastud said…

    LOVE Jacques Reymond! So cute how the terrine is shaped like bread :) haha

  • At 7/15/2011 6:04 pm, Blogger Simon Leong said…

    one of my favourite French restaurants in sydney :-)

  • At 7/15/2011 6:33 pm, Blogger MissPiggy said…

    Oooo, hello Mr Vincent Gadan. He sure has a dishy accent - and his desserts look quite tasty too! LOL. Looks like a great dinner...what a treat!

  • At 7/15/2011 9:07 pm, Blogger Michelle Chin said…

    You take really good food pictures. :)

  • At 7/15/2011 11:57 pm, Blogger mademoiselle délicieuse said…

    Love the look of the terrine in its bread loaf-shaped pastry shell!

  • At 7/16/2011 9:00 am, Blogger A cupcake or two said…

    Awww Vincent. I get all shy every time I see him. What a good looking man, not to mention a pastry master.... :)The food looks amazing Helen. I particularly love that Terrine.

  • At 7/16/2011 12:18 pm, Anonymous chopinandmysaucepan said…

    The lamb gets my vote, especially that ring of fat around the meat! :)

  • At 7/16/2011 3:15 pm, Anonymous Daryl said…

    Wow, I must commend you for the magnificent photos! How I wish I could just click on the picture and then have a taste of the food myself. Hahaha.

    I'm also bothered with the idea of Australian's traditional meat grilling. Isn't it dangerous to eat burned meat? I heard its cancerous. If that's the case then how come Australians still want to eat these types of food? Sure it's delicious but it's kind of dangerous for the health.

    Thanks for posting!

  • At 7/18/2011 1:30 am, Blogger FFichiban said…

    Haha don't get me started on the French... but I do like their food mmmm

  • At 7/18/2011 1:36 pm, Anonymous sara (Belly Rumbles) said…

    I am a sucker for duck, yummy.


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