A champagne cocktail at midday bodes well for an amazing birthday! Even better if followed by a tasty, unpretentious French lunch with some of the most important people in my life. I had decided to spend my birthday in Sydney this year, after being in the mood for a quiet one at home last year. Unbeknownst to me, Soy had done heaps of research and arranged all the details for my birthday 3 weeks earlier, before she left on her trip to Singapore and Hong Kong. The day was supposed to be a surprise, and I didn’t know what plans she had up her sleeve. I knew, though, that I wanted to spend the day eating! And being in the company of dear friends. As I mentioned in a previous post, M and I have been friends for 13 years now, and an important criteria for me was spending it with her and her partner, S. M and I both had the Bocuse special, created by Paul Bocuse himself, with champagne, crème de cassis and crème de framboise. It was deeeelicious! Champagne and birthdays go hand in hand, don’t you think?
One reason why Soy chose L’Étoile is because I have a bit of a soft spot for the charming Manu Feildel, chef de cuisine. He has such a cheeky larrakin air about him and I am of course, a sucker for that French accent. I was hoping to meet him when Soy and I went to Bilson’s a couple of years ago, but he had just moved to L’Étoile. It seems I am just not destined to meet him because Soy actually asked when she made the booking, and he had filming commitments on the day we were there. The restaurant itself is situated in a townhouse in Paddington, and we absolutely loved the atmosphere both inside and out. The simplicity and unpretentiousness of the interior carries through to the lunch menu, with a selection of 3 entrées, mains and desserts, 2 salads and a range of sides, which are all classic French dishes. We all decided to have the 2-course lunch special at $50 each.
S had the Jerusalem artichoke soup, and we all dug our spoons in and sighed in appreciation. It was velvety smooth, tasty and very more-ish. And I learned the French word for Jerusalem artichoke- ‘topinambour’
Soy decided to order something different, and chose the rabbit terrine. We are both usually not huge fans of terrines or patés, but I found the terrine to be quite tasty, particularly when eaten on the brioche together with the prune jam. I was happy with that one mouthful though. I don’t think I could have eaten all of the terrine, and Soy did struggle a bit because it was a sizeable portion. Unfortunately we couldn’t convince M or S to step out of their comfort zone and try the terrine. S had a look on his face that said “You want me to eat rabbit? I’m sticking with my soup, thankyouverymuch!”
My favourite entrée though, was the John Dory that M and I both chose. The fish had the most subtle smoked flavour- I may not have picked it up if not told it had been smoked, but it had the most lovely crispy skin/crust that paired so beautifully with the sauce that was creamy, savoury and with just a hint of butteriness. The tiny diced vegetables and baby clams added another texture to each mouthful. I was honestly in heaven!
M and S both had the steak for their mains. If I hadn’t already known what Soy and I were having, I’d definitely have chosen this. We had been eyeing it on another table when we first arrived, and it was every bit as juicy and flavoursome as it looks. The peppercorn and cognac sauce was absolutely magnificent. I kept dipping my fries into M‘s sauce on her plate- it was a true flavour hit in the mouth, but yet tasted so uncomplicated and light despite the cream.
Now, there is a bit of a story with my main. I remember months ago, commenting to Soy that I wanted her to cook me bouillabaisse for my birthday. She’s made the most lovely bouillabaisse twice I think, and I happened to be craving it one day and made that ‘request’. So, she didn’t get the chance to cook for me but knew that L’Étoile served bouillabaisse for dinner. When she made our booking way back, she had spoken to someone who assured her that we could have a special order of the bouillabaisse for lunch that day. Fast forward to the day before my birthday, Soy got a call confirming our booking and when she double checked about the bouillabaisse, she was told that we couldn’t have it because the restaurant’s fish delivery only came at 5pm. Soy was in a panic, but after a bit of back and forth with the restaurant, was told that all was ok and it was all sorted!
I really would have been fine if I didn’t get bouillabaisse, but I’m glad Soy went through all that trouble cos it was delicious! And I brought some of the lemon and poppyseed macarons I made for the staff for all their trouble! The stew was thick and full of flavour. The fish pieces and yabby were really fresh and with each mouthful, I had some of the creamy seafood with the salty broth. The broth really had such an amazing depth of flavour.
One must-have for me was a bowl of pommes frites- true French fries, that is, shoestring fries. This is my favourite cut of fries and L’Étoile’s fries were crisp and salty on the outside and soft on the inside, with maximum crust, just the way I like it! I actually left behind the potatoes in my bouillabaisse so that I could have more fries!
The food at L’Étoile was excellent because it was simple, uncomplicated and good. No pretenses. The service was friendly and felt like an authentic French experience as I would try my best to understand snatches of French as the staff rattled off to each other. There was a true feeling of being relaxed throughout our lunch there. L’Étoile truly is a shining star in my book!
For me, good food and good friends are essential for a perfect birthday. What about you?
211 Glenmore Road, Paddington
(02) 9332 1566