Le Pub Balmain
As I got stuck into an excellent crusty French-bread take on Sydney’s obsession with miniaturisation - Le Petit Dog ($6) with lamb shoulder, lime labne, green chilli jam and coriander - the ladies at the next table mused: “I guess if I order a Grilled Chicken Salad ($18), I won’t feel so bad about the wine.”
“I make the best tart tartin,” says Tom Rutherford. With a culinary pedigree as long as your arm, and a correspondingly excellent Tart Tartin ($14), Tom can rightfully command a willing audience, even in the far flung reaches of Palm Beach. I’d drive back, swimming costume firmly in hand, just for another crack at his Steak Tartare ($18.50) – easily one of Sydney's best.
Mention the name Claude’s you’re likely to hear: “I’ve always wanted to eat there, just never thought I could afford it.” Cue despondent look. What this fails to take into account is that the fourth chef in the restaurant’s thirty-six year history, Chui Lee Luk, has made a radical departure, shifting fine dining upstairs and opening a casual, affordable eatery/wine bar downstairs! While some might bemoan turning five star French technique into sliders, they clearly haven’t eating the unctuous pork jowl and black fungus relish decking the Pig Face Roll ($12/2).
If I mention sliding into a padded white booth, you’re going to think I’ve cracked. To be honest, I wondered a bit myself when I found myself in this fancy-pants French restaurant, decked out with crimson screens and fringed lamps, set above The Union Hotel. Strap yourself into your train-car style booth for a wild ride.
Le Pelican *UPDATED*
Something new is afoot at this old favourite. With owner/chef Jeff Salet busy over at recent addition Pelicano, Stuart Munro has put his personal touch onto the menu. He has even managed to inject a little of himself into the (usually traditional) Basque style House Smoked Flathead Pie ($35), by the way of some spanner crab, lobster bisque and vanilla-infused tomatoes.
Ananas Bar & Brasserie
For a camp take on date night, this one's a scream - like stepping into a scene from The Birdcage that sucker punches you into believing it can't house a top-notch chef. Jerome Lagarde’s moved beyond three-Michelin, and is cooking here for kicks. In the bar that means dude-food, turned completely on its head. Tacos, cones and test tubes have never been this slick!