Last week I was invited to a French-themed dinner hosted by Cenk, creator of Social Dinner Club, at Garden Court Restaurant, on the 5th floor of Sofitel in the CBD. Sofitel is a 5-star hotel owned by Accor, the famous French multinational corporation.
The Garden Court’s website describes the restaurant serving “modern contemporary cuisine with a French influence”. I was quite impressed when I made my way inside the grand entrance hall, the decor was simple but classy, you could see guests and patrons enjoying a relaxing drink in the lounge on the ground floor and staff members were most polite and friendly when I asked my way to the restaurant.
Once we were all seated, Alex, the sous-chef at Garden Court Restaurant, talked to us about the dishes that were going to be served, and how they use a lot of French techniques and recipes, but add their own Australian twist to them.
We were first served a Mushroom Consommé, a warm and clear broth with herbs and mushrooms, which was nice and full of flavour.
The entrée consisted of Yamba prawns wrapped in jamon on a bed of iceberg lettuce, with kipfler potatoes, green beans, kalamata olives, hard-boiled quail egg, with pesto, tapenade and a preserved lemon, not an especially French-sounding entree, but pleasant nonetheless. The Yamba prawns (Yamba is halfway between Coffs Harbour and Byron Bay) were huge and tasty, apparently they are Matt Moran‘s favourites, which is a good sign. The ham in which they were wrapped was a bit too cooked for my liking, I usually prefer the jamon/prosciutto type of ham as is, raw, but that’s personal taste. They were served with a delightful glass of 2009 Aurum Pinot Gris, from the renowned Otago region in New Zealand, where the climate is very similar to the one we can find in Burgundy.
The vegetarian option consisted in Baked and caramelised fresh figs with Goat’s cheese mousse, crumbled parmesan, micro herbs, which proved almost more popular than its meaty counterpart, from what I could hear from the other guests!
The main dish was the very anticipated Coq-au-Vin, the famous dish of chicken cooked in wine with vegetables, lardons… a bit the equivalent of Boeuf Bourguignon but with chicken! The sauce was very dark and rich, which I liked and the pieces of chicken nicely cooked. The accompanying potato mash was not too creamy and went well with the carrots and caramelised onions, the “lardons” (speck) bringing a nice salty flavour and the whole little onions a nice caramelised taste… probably my favourite dish of the night. We were served a glass of 2008 Silverwood Pinot Noir from the Mornington Peninsula, which went down quite well.
The vegetarian option for the main was Sweet potato gnocchi with zucchini flowers, peas, tomato, basil butter cream, which seemed to be appreciated too.
An assortment of traditional French pastries was then served, including a Mille-feuille, which consisted in superimposed layers of puff pastry and pastry cream, and a Raspberry Opéra Slice, which was to me a bit too dry. The Wentworth Cheese Cake is Sofitel’s signature dessert, hence the name, which they also serve at Sofitel’s renowned High Teas: I was pleasantly surprised at how light it was, it was almost similar to a mousse, which was good because I was really starting to be quite full! However my favourite of the four desserts was the Chocolate Éclair: the choux pastry was light and soft and the filling of chocolate cream was delicious.
We were given pretty little raspberry and chocolate macarons after coffee, which was a nice attention.
All in all, a pleasant evening spent meeting other foodies around a nice dinner… a good concept I think!
The French Wench dined at Garden Court Restaurant as a guest of Social Dinner Club.