Sorry about the long absence, a lot has happened in the last year, which have kept me away from the blog. After working for almost 5 years for a fine French food importer, I made the jump and became a freelancer (hence the lack of restaurant reviews!), working on our documentary, and other bits and bobs. I regularly post pictures on Facebook and Instagram though, so feel free to follow me there too!
I’d been dying to visit Vincent (by same owners as nearby Buzo and Wine Library) for ages, as I’d heard a lot about their Comté soufflé and their cheese-making efforts (anyone prepared to make their own cheese gets my full admiration!). The birthday of my partner’s mum proved the perfect occasion to visit!
The restaurant is located in a boutique hotel right on Queen Street, on the corner of five ways, in Woollahra. After walking through the hotel lobby and the beautiful bar, we were led to our table on the terrace, protected from the elements by translucent plastic covers and heaters. While it got slightly cooler by the end of the night (the heaters might have been turned off at some stage), we were generally quite comfortable. After nibbling on sourdough bread, homemade “Vincent butter” and an assortment of olives, we ordered a few entrees to share, as our friendly waitress had advised us that the portions were quite generous.
While all the portions were not thaaat big, I was still glad we got to share them, because they were all really delicious. The raw fish was especially nice – a light, tangy and refreshing start to the meal.
The celery salad was also tasty, peppered with crunchy roasted hazelnuts and Abondance cheese strips bringing a nice bite. (Abondance is a semi-hard cow’s milk cheese from the French Alps.)
Baked cantal soufflé, “fines herbes” ($19)
I was a bit disappointed to see that the Comté soufflé had been replaced by a baked Cantal soufflé – as you might know, I was born in Franche-Comté, and Comté is my all-time favourite cheese. However this version was delicious, albeit very rich and creamy – eating one by myself would have proved difficult. (The waitress was absolutely right on that one.)
The Jerusalem artichoke & mushroom tart was an absolute winner, dare I say even better than the soufflé? Yes! It was amazing. The pine mushrooms and artichoke teamed very well together and I would have gladly eaten a whole tart by myself.
Seared scallops & leek, soubise, vadouvan spice ($24)
I tasted a bit of the scallops, which were lovely, plump and tender little things. My neighbour loved the dish too, even though she thought the leeks overpowered the scallops a bit. I’d never heard of Vadouvan spice before: according to Wikipedia, it’s “a masala with added spices such as shallots and garlic, [..] thought to have originated due to French colonial influence in the Pondicherry region of India.” Miam.
The steaks ordered by my partner’s parents for mains were served on a metallic plate atop a little burner to keep them warm and melt the butter slowly, and I immediately regretted not ordering one myself. I tasted a bit, and the meat was very tender. They were accompanied with delicious, thin chips, served in a big bowl for two, but which was almost enough for the whole table.
Despite a bout of food envy, I thoroughly enjoyed my poulet rôti, a perfect winter dish with the sprout leaves and chestnuts (which were a bit hard). The chicken was cooked perfectly (though I was hoping for the skin to be a bit more crispy), with a lovely bread sauce. Apparently it’s a British classic: milk cooked with onion, cloves, bay leaf, nutmeg, cream, butter and thickened with bread.
My partner’s brother quite liked the gnocchi with braised veal, even though I suspect he too regretted not ordering the steak. (I think marrying into an Italian family might have spoilt him for life when it comes to pasta dishes ;) )
From top left, clockwise:
Deconstructed chocolate cake, salted caramel mousse and ice-cream,
Raspberry sorbet, rhubarb, pistachio & sheeps’ milk yoghurt mousse,
Baked passionfruit custard, black sesame tuile, Lemon meringue tarte renversée
Even though cheese was on my mind ever since I found out about Vincent – and I did get to admire the cheese cabinet near the kitchen and its big, beautiful wheels of dairy goodness – I opted for dessert instead. While the buttery and sugary disgrace that is Kouign Amman (a specialty pastry from Brittany) sounded really tempting, I really craved something lighter and ordered the passionfruit custard, but even then I struggled, as the portion was quite generous. Everyone was very happy with the desserts, but the deconstructed chocolate gâteau seemed to
take the cake provoke the most enthusiasm, the only gripe being that there wasn’t enough of its to-die-for salted caramel mousse element.
If we hadn’t been so full (and for some of us a bit fluey), we would have loved to sit at the bar for a nice digestif, or cosy up on the inviting plush couches near the fireplace… next time.
While Vincent definitely specialises in French food and wine, don’t go there expecting a traditional “Franchouillard” bistro-type of place with French music, decor (except maybe for some Le Creuset mini-pots), or even French staff for that matter (some might argue that’s a good thing!). This is an Australian interpretation of French cuisine – more modern and fresh – and that’s foine by me ;)
Vincent – French Dining Room & Bar
14 Queen Street
Woollahra NSW 2025
Ph: (02) 8039 1500