“Le Pub” has been on my radar since it appeared on all the “Best Pub” lists at the end of last year. Good Food rates it Three Schooners (meaning “Gastro-tastic”) and it was also named “Coolest Pub” in NSW.
From the photos on Le Pub’s website it looks like a kitschy but stylish Parisian bistro, with colourful velvety upholstery and vintage magazine covers framed on the dimly lit walls. The “Coolest Pub” review describes Le Pub as “sexy”, so I thought this would be a perfect place for a classy but casual catch-up with my no.1 girlfriend. The vibe I had in my mind was “Let’s drink wine, eat snails and pretend we’re in gay Parieeeee!”
From the outside, it looks promising – just a door and a solitary light-up sign looking cool against the twilight CBD backdrop.
As I walk in, I’m greeted with a menu easel and the subway-style logo in bright red and white tiles on the wall. The impression is still consistent with everything I’ve seen and read…
And then I walk downstairs and I’m confronted with a confusing choice of two doors – dingy looking pub, or room filled with pokie machines? Am I in the right place?
I walk through the non-pokie machine door and see what you’d expect to see at your local RSL club: a humble bar…
and a room filled with bar stools and flat-screen TVs playing sports.
The bistro section is subtly separated from the “sports bar” section, but the TVs are still in full view. And this is when I realised… just because a pub has a cute, French name doesn’t transform it into a hip Parisian cafe. A pub is a pub. Which means it plays sports, is filled with mainly middle aged men and has posters sticky-taped on the wall advertising weekday specials like “Wormwood Wednesdays”.
Even the bistro is pretty daggy – as daggy as it looks in the photo. The “find-a-word” wall tiles are a nice touch, but otherwise it seems to be styled as what a suburban French bistro might have looked like in the early 90’s. Somewhere you might go every weekend with the family where your Dad and brother smoke cigars and you and your mother drink too much wine.
With my friend running a bit late, I thought I’d try to Frenchify the mood myself with a lonely glass of Pinot Noir
2010 Louis Latour Pinot Noir Aloxe – Corton Burgundy, France ($12)
So the decor was a disappointment… but this actually made me even more excited about the food – there is no way this place was awarded Three Schooners for vibe or ambience. The menu is really reasonably priced with lots of crowd pleasing French clichés like escargots, duck a l’orange, cheese soufflé and foie gras.
Our cliché of choice was Boeuf Bourguignon!
The award winning Pie au Boeuf Bourguignon ($22) – slow braised Beef with Mushrooms, Lardons, Red wine, crispy puff pastry and creamy Paris mash. Beautifully presented as a golden dome of pastry!
The last time I had Boeuf Bourguignon was at a random restaurant in Paris and it was just chewy meat, chunks of potato with a floury tasting gravy. This, however, was sublime – tender, generous chunks of beef and a really rich sauce with a strong red wine flavour. Plus some buttery mash and a bit of pastry in each mouthful – I was starting to forgive the pokie machines and TV screens and realise why this place deserves its accolades.
The other menu item I couldn’t resist ordering was the Charcuterie. You put charcuterie on your menu, I will order it. Cured meats are my crack.
Homemade Duck Rillette, Pork Parfait, Parisian Saucisson & 3 Jars of Condiments of Red Pepper Relish, Pickled Vegetables & Remoulade with Breads and Cornichons
That’s a whole lot of foodie jargon in one dish! A glossary:
Rillettes: An appetizer made of meat that is diced, salted heavily, and cooked slowly in fat until it is tender enough to be easily shredded, and then cooled with enough of the fat to form a paste.
Parfait: A very smooth meat paste usually made from liver and flavoured with liqueurs
Saucisson: A variety of thick, dry cured sausage that originates in France.
Remoulade: A mayonnaise sauce flavoured with herbs, mustard, and capers, served with salads, cold meat (I believe this was served with thinly sliced celeriac in the above dish)
But if you can only learn one, remember Rillettes. Not commonly featured on Sydney menus – probably because us Aussies are relatively health-conscious and Rillettes is basically a meat-fat paste – it is a guilty pleasure definitely worth trying. And this homemade duck version (confusingly served in a tin) was so tasty and much more wholesome than the usual canned varieties.
Though it’s no where near as stylish as it claims to be – believe the hype about the food. This is actually my favourite type of restaurant – appears unassuming and laid-back but surprises you with food that is thoughtful, sophisticated and most important, tastes freakin awesome. I will definitely be back for the cheese soufflé!
Basement, 66 King St