It is indeed perfectly normal for any foodie travelling to the fabulous city of Sydney to turn into an obsessive compulsive gourmet, trying out every possible restaurant recommendation thrown their way. And that’s exactly what happened to me. Sydney being the multicultural hodgepodge that it is, the food scene is buzzing beyond belief. If you set out into its buzzing centre and tony suburbs to look for a particular cuisine, chances are, you’ll find it. And an authentic version at that. Today my sights were set on discovering French food in Sydney. And in the heart of Sydney, nothing spells ‘c’est magnifique!’ better than the oh-so-French Sofitel Wentworth.
I had the privilege of being invited to dinner at Garden Court, the uber chic French eatery of Sofitel Wentworth Sydney. And I have to say that I was delighted. And here’s how my evening panned out.
Since every good French meal begins with an aperitif, I was ushered to the Soirée bar. A befitting name for a bar – Soirée literally means party in French. The bar sports a chic French look, with its art deco inspiration, golden hanging lamps and modernist furniture. The décor is explicitly inspired by the 1960s, with its broad curved wall and bronze design elements. The evening kicked off with two aperitifs – The Helene Grande Cuvée, an Australian sparkling wine from Tasmania, known for its fresh, light and refreshing qualities for my fellow diner. I decided to be a Euro-snob and opt for half a bottle of trusty Laurent-Perrier champagne. I will quote a renowned champagne expert who once told me that good champagne feels like “angels copulating on your tongue”. He couldn’t have been more right.
Once the aperitif was done, it was time to be ushered to the restaurant. Garden Court is stunningly situated on the hotel’s rooftop garden, on the 5th floor, nestled between Sydney’s glass towers. As its name suggests, Garden Court does have an outdoor seating area, which is, well, a garden. We chose so sit indoors and soak in the sophisticated ambience. The restaurant is immensely spacious, and, in my opinion, looks more like an Australian fine dining restaurant than something Parisian. Which is a good thing, of course!
The bread basked rolled out, with a mini selection of French butter and condiments to nibble on before the meal.
I can’t go to a French restaurant and not order ‘Coquilles St. Jacques’ – or scallops in English. And that’s just what I did here. I ordered the Sea Scallops with a Black Pudding, Glazed Apples and a Chive Velouté. It was exquisite. The black pudding was made with a ‘boudin noir’ black sausage, which is typically French and had this distinctive smoky flavour that perfectly complemented the delicateness of the scallops, which were themselves cooked to perfection.
My main course was interesting: It was a fillet of Southern Ocean Trout with Cousous, Cumin Carrots and a Light Curry Sauce. The fish was impeccable, light and fresh. Though I was not super impressed with the couscous in the curry sauce, I found it too thick and heavy albeit extremely flavourful. I’d probably order the same fish next time and ask for a lighter sauce. I guess that’s just how I like my fish.
The garlic roasted potato puree as a side portion was pure sin. Mashed potatoes with the goodness of garlic. It doesn’t get any more indulgent than this, does it?
I decided to stick to tradition and not experiment too much with desert. I opted for an exquisitely decadent Fondant au Chocolat, served with vanilla ice cream. A culinary crescendo, I’d say.
And not much can be said about the service besides the fact that it was flawless. The warm and casual approach of the Australian service industry paired with the finesse and formality of French service traditions resulted in something extraordinary. And what’s more, I learnt something quite interesting about my ‘celebrity waiter’. Turns out he is one of Sydney’s oldest ‘celebrity waiters’. Read my post on my interesting experience with Sydney’s celebrity waiter.
At the risk of sounding terribly hackneyed, I have to say that at the end of the evening, it was like I had gone to Paris and back, all in the span of three hours, from within those plush confines of a hotel in the heart of Aussieland. And it doesn’t surprise me! The Sofitel group has a tendency to do that. I just love how all the Sofitel hotels I’ve been to across the globe manage to recreate a slice of France and pepper it generously with a local identity. A perfect example of this is the super elegant Sofitel Mumbai BKC, one of my favourite hotels, where every staff member, right from the porter to the GM greets you with the mandatory and cheerful Bonjour namaskar.
Interestingly enough, all I heard at Sofitel Sydney Wentworth was ‘Bonsoir’ from the staff. Hoping that during my next visit, they will have warmed up to me enough to say, ‘G’day-Bonjour’