16 March 2011

Uncorked Restaurant: French inspired cuisine, North Sydney (4 March 2011)

271 Pacific Highway, North Sydney NSW 2060

Hidden French gem

Thanks to Uncorked for inviting me to dine as a guest of their restaurant which is located on level 1 of The Union Hotel. Visiting on a Friday night, the ground floor and outdoor courtyard was pretty full with quite vocal and lively after-work locals. Walking upstairs and entering the restaurant was a totally different experience in a good way — quiet and relaxing, matched with pleasant décor and welcoming lighting. Being seated next to the window offered local suburban outlooks of leafy trees and the booth had side dividers which was a bonus in providing a more intimate setting. To quench the thirst the reasonably priced Signature 'St Germaine' cocktail ($12) and Kir Royale ($12) were both good in their own refreshing ways. I asked to try two of the Camden Haven Oysters ($16 for half dozen) since being a huge fan of natural oysters. They were nice and simply presented with lemon although I’m not sure if they were freshly shucked as they seemed to be low on fresh salty brine that I was looking for. The sizeable Garlic Baguette ($5 for 2) was enjoyable to share and both the glass of 2008 Les Petites Vignettes Sauvignon Blanc ($11) and 2008 Redman Cabernet Sauvignon ($12) were pleasantly quaffable although the cheapest you’ll find in those varieties on the wine menu.

I loved the presentation of the Seared Alaskan Scallops ($16) which carried through with balanced light flavours to make it a favourite of the night. I wonder if some cauliflower puree would be a nice addition to add to the dish for a bit of salty creaminess. The reasonably priced Rock Lobster & Pork Belly ($16) was nicely cooked with a surprisingly well-sized piece of lobster. For such quality it makes me wonder why you’d pay $12 for some less superior dishes at Taste of Sydney. For me, the main draw card on the menu was the Signature ‘Bouillabaisse’ Tagine ($35). Thankfully there was an abundance of tasty seafood in a flavoursone Napoletana style broth. Unfortunately not as beautifully rich in flavour as the Flinders Inn but that one disappointingly skimped on the seafood. If the best of both these dishes were combined it would possibly be one of Sydney’s best bouillabaisse for me although the baguette would have to be a fluffier crustier version rather than the thinnish and slightly dense one it was served with.

For gnocchi fans you’d be well-treated with the House made Pumpkin Gnocchi ($28) which is rich yet bordering heavy in flavour and the reasonably priced French Beans with Lemon Oil & Chill ($6) still pleasantly retained their crunch. For dessert our friendly and polite French waitress Emilie with personality plus recommended the Chocolate & Jaffa Fondant, Orange & Coffee Jelly ($16). The centre was richly gooey offset by the orange which perhaps could have been caramelised for my liking. The coffee jelly provided an interesting dimension although I wished it was also served with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream to help balance the richness of the chocolate. The Cheese selection ($16) came with three quality cheeses including the much sort after Roquefort. My Cappuccino ($4) was roasty and non-bitter and the Vittoria Cinque Stelle Espresso ($4) equally satisfying. I hope the North Shore residents realise how lucky they are to have such a nice French-style restaurant hidden above the casual and loud bar downstairs.

PROS: Reasonably priced dishes for the quality, The private swinging white booths with suburban outlook, Welcoming and friendly service by French waitress Emilie, Quality wines, Nice volume and selection of background music, Nice décor and intimate partitioning
CONS: I prefer my baguette fluffier and crustier, Too many reflective surfaces in the mens toilet on the ground floor bar for my liking, Wine can be expensive
MUST TRY: Seared Alaskan Scallops, Rock Lobster & Pork Belly, Signature ‘Bouillabaisse’ Tagine, Cheese selection

Signature 'St Germaine' Cocktail: St Germaine 'Elderflower' Liqueur, soda water & topped with Chandon Rosé NV & an orange twist ($12), Kir Royale; Crème de cassis with Chandon NV ($12)

Camden Haven Oysters Half dozen served natural ($16 for half dozen) – two sampled

Garlic Baguette ($5 for 2)

Seared Alaskan Scallops, Beetroot Carpaccio, Olive Tapenade, Tomato Concasse & Baby Croutons ($16)

Rock Lobster & Pork Belly, Red Radish & Balsamic Crystals ($16)

Signature ‘Bouillabaisse’ Tagine: Premium fish & seafood rustic stew, with a crusty baguette ($35)

Baguette – could be sliced, flufflier and crustier for my liking to help better soak up the juices

Hand washing bowl – very important

Signature ‘Bouillabaisse’ Tagine — left overs

House made Pumpkin Gnocchi, Mustard Seeds, Goats Curd, Burnt Butter Sauce & Sherry Vinaigrette ($28)

French Beans with Lemon Oil & Chill ($6)

2008 Les Petites Vignettes Loire Valley France ($11/glass)

2008 Redman Coonawaara SA ($12/glass)

Chocolate & Jaffa Fondant, Orange & Coffee Jelly ($16)

Cheese selection: King Island Cheddar AUS, Daphinous(?) FR, Roquefort FR ($16) – all very good but baguette bread was a bit smallish and slightly dense

Cappuccino ($4)

Vittoria Cinque Stelle Espresso coffee ($4)

Restaurant seating and decor

Booths next to the window have sides that close up to give you a bit more intimacy – I like

Surrounding suburban outlook view

Table stand supports are fairly flat which allows your feet to sit flat on the floor – I like

Decor and corner booth seating

Signage on restaurant door

Downstairs bar toilets – way too many reflective surfaces for my liking which imposes on your privacy

Downstairs bar and seating


Jenny (Figs and Brie) said...

Oh god that pork looks amazing! I used to pass this place on the way to school every morning, had no idea there was french restaurant there!

Dumpling Girl said...

The bouillabaisse must have been good, love the photos of the left overs :)

Had no idea that place was hidden in North Sydney.

sugarpuffi said...

The food looks delicious! i like how u took a photo of the mens bathroom haha

Joanie said...

The food looks really, really good! Place looks familiar until I saw the Union Hotel now I realized that I had my barbecue class here few years ago :) what a nostlagia

Gareth@humblecrumble said...

Hi Simon,

what a wee or should I say petit gem of a find, I enjoyed your photos and that bouillabaisse looks pretty tempting.

One for the weekend methinks.

susan said...

yum all that seafood looks amazing!

Simon Leong said...

hi jenny, i had no idea as well until i got invited. it's pretty well hidden being upstairs

hi dumpling girl, hopefully you'll get to try soon

hi sugarpuffi, i seem to always take a photo of the toilet if there's something that needs to be said about it

hi joanie, hopefully you'll get to revisit the restaurant to try the dishes

hi gareth, i'd definitely have the bouillabaisse again with all that seafood

hi susan, for a seafood lover you'd be happy i think

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