30 August 2011

The Little Snail: French, Pyrmont (29 July 2011)

50 Murray Street, Pyrmont NSW 2009

Phone: (02) 9212 7512

Menu isn't quite all French

Thanks to Nina Howse from Our Deal for providing two vouchers ($69 each) for the ‘A Three Course Gourmet Dining Experience for Two. Value $139’. I’m not sure how $139 was worked out since a 3 course dinner menu is $56 and an Aperitif is $9 each which comes to $130. Lunch is even cheaper at $35 for 3 courses. The offer is valid between 22 June – 22 Sept 2011 in case you have bought one. My expectations weren’t particularly high with bruschetta, salt & pepper squid, kangaroo fillet, risotto and sticky date pudding on the menu — I’m pretty sure you won’t find those in France. To start the pre-determined Aperitif provided by the restaurant was so light on alcohol I thought I was drinking straight orange juice. The Garlic bread ($4.50) was quite nice but comes at an extra cost. The restaurant promotes its signature dish as escargot so I had to try. I remember trying these for the first time when The Little Snail was in Bondi. The Escargot de Bourgogne was oven baked in herbs and garlic butter which comes with two tiny slices of bread. The snails weren’t too chewy and quite flavoursome but I’m no expert on what a good one should be although more bread would have been appreciated to soak up the sauce.

The Ravioli of Blue Swimmer Crab, Prawns and Salmon with a lemongrass and chervil veloute looked nothing like a ravioli but more like a snowball croquette. Sauce was quite nice although the dish was a bit on the luke warm side. The Paté Maison was quite generous and more Plain baguette ($2.50) was ordered to help finish it. It was fairly smooth but a bit on the firm side. I think keeping the ingredients more simple and having cornichons instead of the champignons would have been more to my liking. A decent amount of seafood was found in the Bouillabaisse de Marseille although the sauce was more like an Italian Neapolitan pasta sauce and didn’t have the same depth of flavour like I had at Flinders Inn or the prawn bisque soup at Chase Oyster Bar.

Corn-Fed Chicken Roulade was also served a bit luke warm and unfortunately had a meat loaf processed consistency — we wondered if it was made in house or bought in. Wasn’t particularly appetizing I’m afraid and the vegetables soon became the best part of the dish. The Citrus Marinated Tasmanian Salmon had an overly salty skin and the Magret de Canard with a cassis and raspberry sauce became a strange combination of flavours for our French dining guests to stomach. My Seafood Plate takes the cake for perhaps the most non-French dish of the night complete with sweet chilli sauce. The soft shell crab was actually cooked quite nicely and the crumbed calamari pretty tender. Having no patriotic crème brûlée on the dessert menu the Classic Crème Caramel had to do which was quite good. A non-French Warm Sticky Date Pudding was also good and the Handmade Profiteroles with crème patisserie was served singular rather than living up to its plural description. The Kahlua Infused Chocolate Mousse (spelt Cjocolate Mouse on website) was equally satisfying and didn't contain any mouse that I was aware of.

PROS: Quite nice décor and ambience, Friendly staff although don’t expect the majority to be French including the kitchen I’m suspecting, Desserts were better than the entrees and mains, Lots of seating and roomy spacing, Probably good for large groups
CONS: It's more of a Modern Australian café menu than a pure French restaurant menu, Some of the dishes were unfortunately served a bit luke warm, Aperitif was extremely light on the alcohol, No crème brûlée — how very non-French
WORTH TRYING: Desserts, Garlic bread and I guess the escargot if you’ve never had them before

Aperitif with deal - very light on alcohol, Lemon, lime and bitters ($4)

Winter Creek Riesling Traminer 2009 ($40)

Aperitif and Cocktail menus

Garlic bread ($4.50)

Escargot de Bourgogne - Dozen snails marinated in herb-infused court-bouillon, oven baked in garlic butter

Ravioli of Blue Swimmer Crab, Prawns and Salmon with a lemongrass and chervil veloute — doesn't look like a ravioli to me

Paté Maison - Armagnac flavoured duck liver pate with marinated champignons, date chutney and port vinaigrette

Bouillabaisse de Marseille - Traditional French seafood soup with mussels, fish fillets and prawns, served with garlic baguette — was more like Neapolitan sauce but decent bits of seafood

Plain baguette ($2.50)

Corn-Fed Chicken Roulade with french beans, vichy carrots and madeira sauce

Citrus Marinated Tasmanian Salmon on crabmeat risotto and sauce vierge

Magret de Canard - Duck breast fillet with wok tossed spinach and a cassis and raspberry sauce

Seafood Plate of grilled salmon, garlic prawns, salt and pepper squid, chilli mussels, beer battered soft shell crab and mesclun salad

Classic Crème Caramel

Warm Sticky Date Pudding with butterscotch and vanilla ice cream

Handmade Profiteroles with crème patisserie and mint chocolate sauce

Kahlua Infused Chocolate Mousse

Bill $51 extra for four people, 2 x $69 deals used = $189

Menu cover and table water

Parisian decor

Large fish tank

Downstairs seating and bar area

Upstairs seating

Interesting shaped mirror in the toilet — not particularly French though


john@heneedsfood said...

Was hoping to see a bidet in your toilet shot. I used to go to Little Snail before it moved from Broadway many years ago. Even back then they had kangaroo & emu on the menu and the prices were way cheaper. Looks like they have more tourists to please at Darling Harbour, hence the watered down cuisine thats now more like glorified pub food

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a disappointing dinner! They'd be better off not bragging about the "Frenchness" of the place.

Ashley said...

Wow, the place looks quite big! Shame about the food though, it sounded quite interesting otherwise. A good bouillabaisse is a tricky little thing to come across while eating out, I've found my mum does a perfectly delicious one at home....:)

joey@forkingaroundsydney said...

Hmm, sounds a bit crappy, even though the food looks quite good and I never mind desserts being superior to the savouries! :-)

Madam Wu said...

This was a great and honest assessment of the place and I couldn't agree more with it based on my experience there. It's funny how some places prescribe a value to a voucher which doesn't add up! I'm glad you noticed so that more restaurants may pay attention to this and realise that consumers actually care about this. The mains looked nice though, especially the chicken and the salmon. They seem to provide good value if you want to eat 3 courses in the innercity which must explain how they've survived for so long in a competitive space.

Tina@foodboozeshoes said...

Oooh, someone looks different... :) The dishes look nice....

Alf said...

I've often wondered about The Little Snail. Thanks for your comments. They've helped me make up my mind.

Richard Elliot said...

I thought the same thing as Joey, the food looks pretty good. It's a shame that it didn't turn out to be the case.

The menu sounds a bit confused too.

ourbillplease said...

Oh man, I was so excited about trying out this place after reading some rave reviews. The food doesn't look promising at all :(

tony said...

I can't believe what I am reading, I ve been there many times and the food has always been great.The food is maybe not that french but the quality is there. It s still one of my favorite in sydney.

Simon Leong said...

hi john, unfortunately no bidet in the toilets this time.

hi lateraleating, they actually do brag about the Frenchness i think

hi ashley, it's a lot bigger than i thought it was going to be. you're lucky your mum makes a good bouillabaisse

hi joey, it wouldn't be the first time i've enjoyed the deserts over the mains

hi madam wu, they must be doing something right to survive for so long.

hi tina, i think the dishes had some potential but unfortunately didn't hit the mark for me

hi alf, glad it's helped you make up your mind about it

hi richard, the menu certainly tries to cater for everyone which then starts to dilute the French factor

hi ourbillplease, some reviews tend to only focus on the positives sometimes that can leave an unbalanced opinion perhaps

hi tony, i'm glad to hear you've had good experiences at this place. perhaps i visited on an off night.

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