I was having lunch a friend on afternoon and as we were saying goodbye, her eyes became a bit shifty.
“Hey, so, what are the restaurants at the top of your list that you haven’t had a chance to try yet?”
“Umm… I’ve wanted to check out this place called Ananas for a while…Why do you ask?”
“Oh, just because, you know, looking for somewhere nice to take my boyfriend and I want to eat there first before you do *nervous laugh* Okay, SEEYA!”
Didn’t fool me for a second. That was the most un-smooth attempt at “Let me sneakily find out where you want to eat so I can take you there as a surprise” anyone’s ever tried on me.
But who’s complaining? The important thing was that someone was going to treat me to a meal at a restaurant at the top of my to-eat list. Whether you reveal the venue or blindfold me and make me guess where I am by the smell – either way, I’m happy.
So, as I guessed, our friends booked a dinner for four at Ananas as a lovely farewell gift for me and Matt, before we flew off to Korea.
“Ananas” is French for “Pineapple”. Pineapples don’t seem very French… but this French bistro is certainly very… pineapple.
Props to the interior designer who must have had to scour the earth for these elegant pineapple-themed ornamentations. While the concept sounds more suited to a Tiki Lounge, the restaurant is actually a beautiful combination of heritage Sydney and art deco Paris. It’s an expansive space of exposed brick with separate bar and dining rooms – the latter furnished with intimate booth seats and mural-sized nude paintings that might make the more prudish diner a little bit uncomfortable.
My friends and I were seated, and the waiter came by to ask us about water.
“Still or sparkling?”
“Um, still please!” my friend answered cheerily, before I had a chance to interject.
“What? Sorry, have I misjudged you? Because I didn’t think I was friends with the type of people who would happily pay $9 for a bottle of water imported from Italy when we live in a country with some of the cleanest tap water in the world? Or was that just a rookie mistake? Okay, let me show you how it’s done. When a waiter asks the “still or sparkling” question you never reply with either “still” or “sparkling”, you take the silent option (c) and say “Tap water’s fine thanks!” and then flick you hair and act cool because tap water IS fine, thankyouverymuch”.
Of course I said all this after the waiter had left, because I may be shameless enough to answer “tap” when that option isn’t even presented to me, but I’m not shameless enough to change an order from “still” to “tap”.
And then, as if he hadn’t even noticed the very important moment we just had about the water, our friend burst out “GUYS, can you believe how good looking our waiter is?!”
I guess as Koreans we’re more used to middle-aged aunties waiting our tables, not bronzed model-esque frenchmen whose shirts look like they’ve been spray-painted on.
I took a sneaky photo, but meh, I’ve seen better.
We started the evening with two super-French entrees.
Escargot with garlic sauce ($18). The bed of foam is pure salt – we learnt this the hard way.
Honestly, the only reason I ever order escargot is for the novelty value. I’m not even sure what they actually taste like because they’re always so drowned in garlic butter. You could probably cook a wad of chewed gum in garlic butter and it would taste the same.
But you know, Snails! In shells! On a plate! With special tongs!
The chefs selection of house made charcuterie, brioche ($22) was not as substantial as we hoped… it took us about two whole seconds to clean that plate.
When choosing mains, we convinced our skeptical red-meat loving friends to go for the fish dishes. If there’s one thing we’ve learnt from our French dining experiences, its that fish beats all other land-dwelling creatures. You have to be delicate when cooking fish, and no one is more delicate than the French.
Snapper with blue swimmer crab & squid risotto ($35) – this sounded amazing on paper, but our friend was a bit underwhelmed by the portion size and flavour.
Whole flounder with lemon caper butter and pommes purée ($37) – one of Ananas’ signature dishes and definitely the most delicious thing on our table that evening.
I chose the lobster ravioli with confit tomato and bisque $33. I’m not really a huge fan of shellfish but there’s something about lobster on a menu that draws me – maybe it’s just the cliche of lobster being the most expensive, luxurious thing you can order at a restaurant. This was pleasant, but the flavours were a bit too mild for my liking, so I just kept stealing forkfuls of my friend’s flounder.
Matt chose (well… I chose for him) the navarin of braised lamb shoulder, roasted breast and gremolata crumbed brain ($34) – another signature dish. A classic country-style stew, complete with crumbed offal. This was the first time we’ve tried brain… and will probably be the last. I feel like the brain is one of those organs that God never intended to be eaten… along with eyeballs and the pancreas.
We had a lot of fun at Ananas – but I think that had more to do with the company, the cute waiter and unwanted bottle of still water than the food. The food was great, but I there are definitely French bistro-style restaurants in Sydney that are just as good but much less expensive. I suppose what you’re also paying for is the experience of dining in the Argyle with the trendy upper-crust of Sydney. And admission to the museum of pineapple art.