Friday night in the city and four of us descend to the Rocks area of Sydney to dine at Baroque Bistro. The French restaurant with Chef de Cuisine Peter Robertson, is located at the intersection of George Street and Hickson Road as it veers towards the harbour.
We arrive on an unusually mild autumn evening and the outdoor dining area is already buzzing with diners.
We step inside and take note of the patisserie with a mountain of macarons on display. There is an energy from the open plan kitchen that looks onto an intimate dining area. We are shown to our table in the second dining room with a sparkling bar as the showpiece, or the competing view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
With bare floors and high ceilings, the restaurant reminds me of a converted warehouse. The décor has a mixture of a modern and industrial feel, with transparent plastic chairs, chrome lights-fittings hanging from the ceilings and copper pans hanging from the wall.
We start with Kir Royale, my apéritif of choice when in France. The mixture of crème de cassis topped up with Champagne or sparkling wine always takes me back to dinners we’ve enjoyed in the bistros of Paris. The apéro goes down easily, and leaves me feeling nostalgic for one more visit to my favourite city.
Under muted overhead lighting and dim candlelight, we study the menu. The entrées are enticing with a selection of French bistro fare favourites such as escargots, tarte de boudin noir and boudin of prawns with seafood bisque. But the mains and desserts are equally tempting so we opt out of entrées in favour of dessert.
The black board specials are difficult to read in the dark but our attentive waitress happily goes through the list of specials, explaining the dishes with enthusiasm and answering any of our questions with ease. We place our order and move onto a bottle of Josef Chromy Pinot Noir 2008 from Tamar Valley in Tasmania.
Complimentary bread, sliced and presented symmetrically in a bowl is brought to the table with a small dish olive oil. The symmetry is a little lost in the photograph above due to the guilty party removing one slice before I had a chance to take a photo. By the time the main courses arrive, everyone on the table knows that photography of the dishes comes before the first taste. The dim mood lighting makes it very difficult to get decent photographs of the food and does not do the dishes any justice.
Two of us have chosen Duck Two Ways with sauce à l’orange ($29). The leg component of the dish easily breaks away from the bone and the breast componet is moist, tender and melts in the mouth. The mini beetroots are cooked perfectly. I notice an unusual and lovely flavour beneath the duck that teases my tastebuds. Our waitress later reveals that it consists of a combination of liquorice and star anise.
Trout Grenobloise ($25) is the Friday special. The whole trout is cooked with a traditional grenobloise sauce with lemon, butter and capers. The generous serving dish is enjoyed by our friend who usually orders safe dishes due to food allergies.
Mr G orders from the blackboard specials, a slow cooked Pork Neck ($25), served with thinly sliced green beans which we initially mistake for peas. A satisfying dish that echoes of comfort food and contented tummies.
The Paris Mash is so smooth and creamy that it only gets passed around once before it disappears.
Baroque has a great vibe while it maintains and a relaxed and professional ambience. The service is attentive and friendly, and the enthusiasm of our waitress indicated someone who enjoys her job. Although the restaurant is near full capacity, four of us areable to converse normally without the need to shout, something that has become a rarity in Sydney restaurants.
Desserts arrive and the Passionfruit soufflé with passionfruit sorbet ($16) is a delight. Served as three components on a wooden board, the soufflé is light and fruity while the sorbet packs a nice zest which which to end the meal.
Mr G offers me first taste of his Crème brulée à la vanille, glace a la pistache ($13) as it has been my signature dessert for many years. I rate the brulée as above average to my tastes and would have liked the top to be a little more crunchy. The pistachio ice cream is a winner.
Two of us choose Mille feuilles au chocolat Valrhona, sucre lavande, glace à l’orange caramelisée ($16). The presentation of the mille feuilles on its side surprises me and I am tempted to try the layers of pastry and chocolate. The taste of the Valrhona chocolate is evident in the dessert, the burnt orange ice cream is delicious but I find the pastry a little difficult to cut through but overall, I am very pleased with my choice of dessert. A glass of Charles Hours Jurançon 2007 with its fruity and clean finish is a good accompaniment.
Before we leave, we make a note to return for the weeknight specials we enjoy, bouillabaisse on Mondays and cassoulet on Tuesdays. On the way out, we stop by the patisserie and take home a box of macarons to taste and review. But long after we leave Baroque Bistro, we continue to sing its praises.
88 George Street
Sydney NSW 2000
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