Sel et Poivre is one of my favourite restaurants in Sydney. In, fact, I usually celebrate my birthday here, lured by the fabulous, and very authentic French fare on offer. Its also a reliable place when you've got fussy eaters. A group of friends that we dine with includes a friend, Hot Dog, who likes his food just so and is likely to get the waiter or waitress who doesn't seem to want to convey this wish to the kitchen so he ends up supremely frustrated. Not here though, we don't hear a peep of complaint from him when we dine here.
I know the menu back to front and have already pre ordered my dishes in my mind. I never veer, although sometimes I do if its winter and I ask for the Cassoulet (not a menu item, you have to ask for this). But since the weather is warm, I order my usual two entrees instead of an entree and main: the Salmon Marinated in Olive Oil, Aromatic Herbs, Mixed lettuce and Warm Steamed Potatoes $17.90 and the Crispy Galette of Fresh Swimmer Crab, Leeks and Sauce a l'Americaine $15.50. My husband orders the Marinated Braised Beef Cheeks with Miramar Cabernet Sauvignon Sauce and Frites $24.90, Rose does the two entree thing too with the Crispy Galette of swimmer crab and the Duck Terrine with Armagnac $16.90 and Ronald orders the Duck Leg Confit with lentils and salad $25.90 and we have a serve of mash for the table ($6.90). We're seated at my favourite table, on the outside with the cushions but not the table right on the street.
As its relatively early, its quite empty but we know that it will be busy by 8pm. After all Darlinghurst-ites don't exactly dine early and we overhear them having to knock back people without reservations. Its not long before Rose and my cold entrees arrive. My Salmon Marinated in Olive Oil, Aromatic Herbs, Mixed lettuce and Warm Steamed Potatoes is, as always, delicious. The soft, olive oily salmon beautifully textured and the potatoes dotted with finely diced spring onion. The accompanying birds eye chili and garlic clove, although decorative, remains untouched, I think either or both would overpower the fish.
Rose's Duck Terrine has two thinly sliced pieces of mottle hued duck meat. Together with the fresh baguette pieces, its delicious, the Armagnac giving the flavoursome duck meat just a hint of brandy. Its delicious and surprisingly filling given the thin pieces. I may have found another must have-I wonder how I'd go ordering 3 entrees next time?
Ronald's Duck Leg Confit with lentils and salad is fall apart loveliness. Slightly crispy on the outside with the skin, he's impressed at how soft and delicious it is and how easily it falls off the bone. What's surprising for both Rose and Ronald is the puy lentil salad, housed in a ramekin on the side. Neither having eaten a lentil before in their life, and probably relegating it to the repulsive sounding and much maligned pulse category, their first experience is with this. Its strong with bacon flavour with finely diced carrots, tomatoes and herbs mixed in and topped with diced tomato. Its easily a dish I could order just by itself by the bowlful and one that has them impressed and nodding their heads with satisfaction.
My husband's Marinated Braised Beef Cheeks with Miramar Cabernet Sauvignon Sauce and Frites arrives. Like the Duck Confit, the dark hued meat, set in a pool of darkest cab sav sauce, is fall apart soft, the meat incredibly tender and unctuous with an almost gelatinous texture to it much like marrow. There are also pieces of carrot, mushroom and bacon in it to add to the flavour. My favourite fries and mash in the world are here, the fries gloriously crisp and crunchy, the mash creamy and buttery smooth. The frites are dipped in this and then mash and this is repeated until every last drop of this deliciously rich sauce is gone-call it a more decorous way of licking the plate clean.
Rose and I have our Crispy Galette of Fresh Swimmer Crab, Leeks and Sauce a l'Americaine to devour. The round orb of crab filled pastry sits in a sauce based on tomato, onion, and herbs, cooked in wine. The outer pastry isn't as crispy as I recall it to be but the inner is delicious and packed to the brim with fresh swimmer crab and leeks, the amount of crab particularly impressing Rose. For a crab and pastry lover like me, this is deliciously decadent.
Sadly, as we have to dash, we must forego my favourite Creme Brulee in the world-one housed on a long shallow-ish dish (maximum toffee crunch here) where an earth shattering toffee crunch is always had. By now the restaurant is full and our white papered table is earmarked for another group of lucky diners.
Sel et Poivre
263 Victoria St
Darlinghurst, NSW 2010
Tel: +61 (02) 9361-6530
Fax: (02) 9360-8926
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