"I could give birth any minute now" Christie says to me as she picks me up outside of my house. My eyes widen in slight panic. I'm on my learners driver's license and can only drive supervised. Besides which, I have very little to no experience in childbirth so I'm fairly useless in this situation. "Please don't give birth right now! " I say to her as we drive Northside towards Pymble.
We are headed towards Pymble to try out Dietmar Sawyere's bistro called Ad Lib. He is of course famous for being the chef at Berowra Waters Inn and former chef of Forty One and this is said to be a more affordable nod to French Bistro food. Indeed from looking at the menu some mains can be had for less than $30 which is somewhat of a minor miracle in Sydney. The menu is broken up into three sections, hors d'oeuvres, seasonal specialities and mains. It's a hard task deciding what to order as there are some dishes that seem a little Berowra Waters Inn and then there are some tempting French classics.
Duck Liver parfait with onion marmalade $17
We start with a dish that comes to us from the chef which thoughtfully makes ordering a bit easier. It's the duck liver parfait with onion marmalade. It comes with some thinly sliced but still slightly soft (I don't enjoy it when the toast is too hard) pieces of toast and in presented very well, so well that others next to us coo over the presentation and it turns out that we are sitting next to other bloggers too! The parfait is airy and moussey with a layer of liquidey fat on top. I unclip the jar and dig in. It's fantastic, mild with liver and especially good when paired with the red onion marmalade which has an ever so slight touch of chilli which was serendipitous.
Steak Tartare $19
OK it's time to get serious now and we need to order. Ever since I visited Montreal, it rekindled my love for steak tartare. I order a small version of this for my entree. Sometimes it comes pre mixed and sometimes it comes with the condiments separately and you need to mix them together yourself. Here it us all done for you. I take a bite and the meat is gloriously soft, just the right texture and it is perfectly seasoned with a hint of mustard, very finely diced onion, chives and a dash of Tabasco. I would imagine that you would need to know what you're doing when seasoning this for if you let the customer mix it up themselves, then they can do what they like and the seasoning is left up to them. I'm pleased to see the salad is dressed with a lovely slightly sweet dressing and there are also some lovely grilled mushroom quarters in it.
Tarte Flamiche of leeks and gruyere, tomato, olive and shallot salad $16
Christie's dish is the tart flamiche with leeks and gruyere. The pastry is snappily crisp and there is a thick layer of finely sauteed leeks and gruyere. The leeks are sauteed until translucent but not caramelised so that they don't become sweet. Interestingly it is served cold whereas we both prefer pastry warm. It is served with a tomato, olive and shallot salad.
Snowy Mountains trout fillet, yabbie tails, lemon, capers, parsley $38
Now I chose this dish because a) the waitress recommended it and they usually know what's good and b) because it sounded like a Berowra Waters Inn dish and when it comes to our table we are not disappointed. Christie and I pause a minute just to admire it. The yabbies are perfectly cooked, rich and flavorsome and there are four yabbies in this dish. The Snowy Mountains trout fillet is thin with a slightly crispy skin and sits on a bed of sauteed spinach. Christie and I notice that we didn't get that film on our teeth that you tend to get after eating spinach so we ask and they tell us that it is because the spinach is washed twice. We figure that it has been rinsed, cooked and rinsed again and then cooked again so it is very tender and much like creamed spinach. It is simply flavoured with lemon, capers, parsley and tomato but it is the simplicity of these that really complements the seafood.
Crisp duck leg confit, lyonnaise potatoes, endive and raddichio salad $34
Christie's duck keg confit main is mostly deboned with one delicate bone left inside. The duck leg is slightly crispy on the outside and with a delectable sweet sauce accented with thyme. It is served with caramelized onions and kipfler potatoes Lyonnaise potato style.
Creamed potatoes $8
"Mmm this is good" Christie says and continues to spoon at this despite holding some stomach space empty for dessert. The mashed potato is creamy and rich and perhaps worth negotiating precious dessert stomach space for.
Crepes Suzette with blood oranges $12
After a little break, we are tempted with dessert. We had of course scoped out the desserts ordered by the friendly gentlemen sitting next to us. Our waitress tells us that the Crepes Suzette with blood orange is a dish that wows at night when you can see the flame. Sure it's lunchtime but we order this anyway. It comes out and the crepes are good with a marmaladey sauce and there are two slices of blood orange to the left and a rich vanilla bean ice cream.
Pear Tarte tatin with white chocolate ice cream $12
I do love pears, they're probably my favorite winter fruit and this pear is an ideal texture, cooked but not wet or sloppy. The pastry is buttery but it isn't as crispy or caramelised as we'd like-perhaps it's the use of pears rather than apples which have less liquid. The white chocolate ice cream is heaven with actual shards of good quality white chocolate in it.
We didn't mean to eat it all but we did and so we roll out of there and chuckle at the sign outside which reads "Reduce Speed". Yep warning heeded.
So tell me Dear Reader, do you ever ask the waiter or chef how things are cooked when you dine in a restaurant?
NQN and Christie dined at Ad Lib as guests of Ad Lib
Ad Lib Bistro
1047 Pacific Highway, Pymble, NSW
Tel: +61 (02) 9988 0120
Open: Monday-Friday 10am-10pm, Saturday 5pm-10pm
Another Ad Lib will be opening Mid November at 21 Bay Street Double Bay, NSW.