La Maison de l’Eclair – Bondi

Chocolate eclair

After a Macaron frenzy fuelled by pastry wizard Adriano Zumbo, Baroque Bistro (followed by many others), and more recently the arrival of French macaron house Ladurée, get ready for a new pastry trend in Sydney town. Indeed, Eclair is the “new black” of the pastry world, according to La Maison de l’Eclair, the first store in Sydney entirely dedicated to Eclairs which has just opened.

I’m pretty excited that the classic éclair has been given a new, sexy makeover and given a spot in the limelight! In France, renowned French pastry chef Christophe Adam has led the way with his concept store, L’Eclair de génie, where he offers a full range of completely revisited éclairs, with flavours changing every season, not unlike haute-couture fashion collections. You can watch him at work in this video when he came downunder to host a workshop at Savour School in Melbourne earlier this year (check out his sweet “Burger” éclair at the end of the video, very well done!).

I knew when I saw Adam’s crazy éclair display at fine food show SIRHA in Lyon last January, that it was only a matter of time before this new craze reached our shores!

Of course, you could already find excellent éclairs in Sydney, like for example at Black Star Pastry, but the Eclair concept store had yet to be created.

LaurenceLaurence Caillon (Croquembouche & Maison de l’Eclair)

I didn’t have to wait too long… Founded by Frédéric and Laurence Caillon, who have been running Croquembouche Patisserie in Banksmeadow since 2000, La Maison de l’Eclair has just opened in the old Paris Cake Shop premises, and I had the opportunity to attend their launch party.

Savoury eclair selectionSavoury selection: Toulouse, St Malo, Paris, Arcachon etc.

Not only do they offer classics like chocolate and coffee éclairs, but they have been very creative with new and sophisticated flavours. However the real novelty are the savoury éclairs, which are all named after French cities and represent their regional specialties: for example, Bergerac ($9.50) contains foie gras, a specialty from the Southwest. They are all made with a buckwheat choux pastry (gluten-free), which should somewhat relieve the guilt of the most health-conscious among us ;)

Savoury eclairs

Even though I got to taste a fair few éclairs that night, I only scratched the surface of the large selection on offer. You could choose from Paris (ham, comté, tomatoes, mesclun leaves, mayo), Chambord (Goat’s cheese, sun dried tomatoes, pesto, basil) and many more, but one savoury eclair that I thought worked really well was the Archachon (Salmon, dill & cream cheese).

The question was raised among guests about whether the savoury ones would be filling enough for lunch. To me it probably would, but the biggest appetites might need a bit more to really feel full… maybe a sweet éclair for dessert would do the trick!

SparklesThe sparkly Eclair tower in honour of Frederic & Laurence (nice colour match!)

We were then served the sweet ones, which ranged from the classic Chocolat, Espresso, Vanilla, to the more “out there” ones, like the Mojito (Mojito ganache cream, fresh mint). Frederic and Laurence have also reinterpreted French classics, like the Tropézienne, Lemon Meringue and Paris-Sydney, a twist on the popular Paris-Brest, which I loooove. The Canadian and the Caribbean, both laden with fresh fruits, are on the pricier side at $7.50. I had a soft spot for the Pistachio and the Grand Cru Ecuador, with its intense (70%) chocolate flavour.

EclairsAn infinity of Eclairs

Guests

Even though I was able to chose any one of the éclairs on display to take home, I just couldn’t resist the classic Chocolate one – the best way to judge a good éclair I thought… it didn’t last 10 minutes from the moment I got home, which is a good sign!

Classic eclairsChocolat, Coffee and Vanilla: the Sweet Classics

I hope Australians will love Eclairs as much as they loved macarons and cupcakes. (Except Eclairs are much nicer, in my humble opinion!)

So, what do you think will be the next big trend after Eclairs? (I think it’s going to be Canelés…) ;)

Hazelnut eclairHazelnut Eclair

Passion & Peanut EclairsPeanut Butter, Pistachio and Passionfruit

Peanut & TropezienneTropézienne & Peanut Butter

Sweet eclair selectionRaspberry & Bounty

Sweet eclairs displayCarribean, Canadian and Lemon Meringue

Grand Cru EcuadorGrand Cru Ecuador (70%)

Sydney-BrestParis-Sydney

Maison de l’Eclair
91 Bondi Road
Bondi NSW 2026

Brasserie Ananas – The Rocks

Eclairs 3

Every year, my girlfriends and I organise an early Christmas catch up over a good old French fare before everything gets too crazy. We’d been talking about Brasserie Ananas for a while, and I was pretty excited to try it, as I was well aware of the chefs’ pedigree: Paul McGrath, previously from 2-hatted Bistro Ortolan in Leichhardt, and pastry chef Yves Scherrer, whom I knew from his work with Team Pastry Australia and his reputation for the best Salted Caramel Eclair in town.

And yes, people might also remember this restaurant for making the news with their infamous bright red mouth-shaped urinals! The uproar they provoked led to their removal… until the owners decided to put the urinals back again! But I think the food is what they should be known for, as it really is worth it.

TartareClassis hand-cut Steak Tartare ($24)

As a young adult, I found the idea of eating raw meat a bit repulsive, until I tasted a Steak Tartare at a “bouchon” in Lyon with all the right seasonings… from that moment, there was no coming back. I’d been craving Steak Tartare for a while, so I ordered the entree-sized option. It was still pretty generous, and I struggled to finish it. It was topped with a quail egg yolk still in half a shell and poured on the steak by the waitress. It also came with thin and crispy bread slices and sweet potato crisps, as well as fried little capers on the side. It hit the spot.

CrabCrab leg

My friend ordered 100g of King crab leg, which came with a bit of mayonnaise/aioli type of sauce and she seemed pretty delighted.

Lobster ravioliLobster ravioli, Confit tomato, bisque ($33)

I chose the Lobster Ravioli as a main, and I didn’t regret it. The waitress poured the bisque at the table on the ravioli, which were served on a bed of confit tomato. The ravioli were topped with a “salad”, consisting of diced poached lobster tail meat, diced fresh green apple, diced baby fennel blanched diced celeriac, truffle aioli, chopped chives, lemon juice. It was light, refreshing and had loads of flavour… I would order it again in a jiffy!

Lobster Ravioli mainLobster ravioli, Confit tomato, bisque ($33)

My friend had been dreaming of a Steak-Frites for weeks now, and her dream came true in the shape of the 300g Grass-fed sirloin, which she found delicious.

Steak FritesSavannah grass-fred sirloin 300g ($41)

I was a bit worried as I’d read that the restaurant could get a bit too enthusiastic with the house music. At first I didn’t find it that bad, but by the end of the meal, as the light kept on being dimmed, the music kept on getting turned up… But that was fine, as we were in the last phase of our dinner by then, the much-anticipated desserts!

SneakersSnicker’s Revolution ($18)

The girls were quite disappointed to find out that the Chocolate Fondant was no longer on the menu, being less suited to summer, so they consoled themselves by ordering the Snickers’s Revolution, a deconstructed Snicker Bar consisting of peanut ice-cream, a tube of chocolate filled with a chocolate mousse on a bed of peanuts. (Sorry if I sound wanky using the expression “on a bed of”, but… I really can’t think of a better one.) And my friends loved the dessert.

Strawberry & CreamStrawberry & Cream dessert

This beautiful dessert of Strawberry & Cream consisted in a Meringue cylinder topped with a sugar disc, on which dollops of cream and fresh strawberries were placed. The waiter then poured a strawberry coulis at the table. A very classic combination of flavours, but a winning one: fruity, light and refreshing.

Ananas eclairEclair trio: Pineapple Eclair

The moment finally came to taste the famous eclairs: I would have just ordered the salted caramel eclair if I could have, but the menu only listed the Trio of Eclairs as an option.

I started with the Pineapple (Ananas): the taste of the fruit was really distinct and intense, it didn’t taste artificial, and I liked the little marshmallow on top.

EclairsJaffa Eclair: Chocolate and Orange Blossom

The 2nd eclair, Jaffa, was made of chocolate and orange blossom. I had never tasted the eponymous lollies, so didn’t have a preconceived idea of how it should taste… I only know it tasted damn good!

Caramel eclairEclair trio: The famous Salted Caramel Eclair

But my favourite was really the Salted caramel one: the filling was very smooth, creamy and not too set, but not too runny either, a good balance of sweet and salty… parfait.

I actually heard on the grapevine that an Eclair store might soon see the light of day in the Ananas vicinity in the next few months… so stay tuned, as Eclairs are the next big thing!

Despite the 2-hour sitting policy, we didn’t feel any pressure to leave after exceeding our allotted time, which was most appreciated, as I hate feeling rushed.

Brasserie Ananas offers great food, pleasant service (mostly French), and despite not being on the cheaper side of the bistro/brasserie spectrum, is perfect to celebrate special occasions and is sure to appeal to all Francophiles and French food lovers out there.

Brasserie Ananas
18 Argyle Street
The Rocks NSW 2000

Ananas Bar & Brasserie on Urbanspoon

Interview with Alison Brien – Channel Cheese

PuzzonePuzzone di Moeana cheese, Italy (Trento province)

Saying that I like cheese would be quite an understatement: I simply love it, I grew up wolfing down slabs of Comté and Camembert, eating Cancoillotte and Mont d’Or by the spoon, and later as a young adult was quite happy to just dine on wine, baguette and Picodon (goats cheese).

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Cafe Opera, Intercontinental – Sydney

EggCafe Opera’s famous Slow-cooked Egg dish

A few weeks ago I was invited by Cafe Opera Executive Sous Chef, Julien Pouteau, to discover their new Spring Menu at the restaurant located on the 1st floor of the InterContinental Hotel, right next to Circular Quay.  

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Sydney Cove Oyster Bar – Harbourside Beach Barbie

SunsetLocation, location!

A few weeks ago I was invited to the media preview of Sydney Cove Oyster Bar‘s Harbourside Beach Barbie, taking place every Saturday at lunchtime in October for only $55/pp. during Good Food Month, Sydney Morning Herald’s food festival.

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Sydney’s Best Croissants

Croissant mashup FW

Bonjour tout le monde!

As some of you might know, I recently wrote a piece for the blog section of The Guardian Australia about croissants. I had to sacrifice myself and taste as many croissants as I could to bring you all this information… lucky you!

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Red Obsession

Chinese Billionaire and his $60m cellarChinese sex-toy billionaire and his $60-million cellar

Last week I went to see a great documentary at the Dendy Newtown about the legendary Bordeaux wines, called: “Red Obsession“, one of Sydney Festival hit films a few months ago. It was directed by Warwick Ross and David Roach, and the latter was present at the Dendy for a Q&A after the projection.

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Progressive Dinner in Surry Hills

Late last month I was invited to a “Dinner on the run”, a progressive dinner organised by social concierge Lime & Tonic.

A progressive dinner is a bit like a pub crawl, except that it involves food in addition to the booze and that the after effects are not as painful! In addition to that, Lime & Tonic selects the best dishes of the restaurants and the only thing you have to worry about is rock up there and enjoy yourself. That night we were going to Sugarcane, Bar H and Longrain, all a stone’s throw away from each other in trendy Surry Hills.

Sugarcane entreesPrawns  on rice cakes & Som Tam with crispy pork

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Souffle class at Patisse Cooking School – Chippendale

Mango Souffle square

Who doesn’t like Soufflés, those light, moist, airy as clouds cakes. Savoury or sweet, they’re bound to impress your guests at dinner parties… that is, if the soufflé doesn’t collapse before reaching the dining table, or worse, never rises. Capricious little things they are…

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Ramen Ramen Ramen

Many RamensRAMEN
(Ichiban Boshi, Menya CBD & Chinatown, Gumshara, Ippudo…)

If you follow me on Twitter and Facebook, you might have noticed I’m pretty fond of those Japanese noodle soups called Ramen.

Last year I would have probably eaten Ramen once or twice… maybe three times a week! I kind of became addicted to it…

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