I wished I lived just a little bit closer in Sydney to Randwick so I didn’t have to find a designated driver to take me home for every visit. Chef Matthew Kemp and team do a stirling job at Restaurant Balzac. This week’s dinner was no exception. In fact it was so delicious that I stuffed myself silly, ate extras from the other plate at my table, and was still eyeing off the other neighbouring dishes. And that’s even after Matt sent out a couple of little ‘extras’. Nurturing and comforting, hearty and sassy, yet refined and correct, the food is everything that it could be. Restaurant Balzac spans the full spectrum of contrasts and possibilities at one table.
One of my friends recently asked me a Facebook question: “Do you ever just eat cheese on toast Rebecca?” My Facebook answer was “Yeup, I eat cheese on toast at Restaurant Balzac”. Whilst the question and answer might have been just a touch tongue in cheek, and my friend was actually referring to how very often I seem to dine out these days, it is in fact true that very good cheese and good ingredients can elevate the humble toasted sandwich. Here’s the proof – in the first of my two extra treats for the night – Brie and Truffle Toasties.
The official start to our meal had been the amuse bouche of Watercress Veloute, Truffle Chantilly. Now although they came one after the other, I’m thinking that put them together and you have the ultimate soup and toast supper. As it was I couldn’t have thought of a better start to our night. Following on with our Valentine’s Day dinner – the two entrées engendered our contrasting tastes – masculine and feminine. The boy chose the deeper richer heartier cold plate - Serrano, Figs, Almond and Manchego; mine the Marinated Kingfish and Ocean Trout with Orange, Fennel and Poached Crystal Bay Prawns was a playful and teasing foreplay, only ever so slightly tangy, but ever so light and fresh. The fish and seafood brought an ocean breeze to the table, the slight saltiness of cure contrasted with uplifting citrus segments and juice and the aniseed shavings of the fennel. Clever whispers of chervil enticed and completed the conversation. This was a sexy dish and very much to my liking!
OK well here’s where I have to admit the stuffing part came into play. And, while the eating and the – yum yum yum – enjoyment was ‘real’ – I have another admission – about another ‘virtual’ social network tool – twitter. Like many of our Sydney food community chefs, sommeliers, waiters, journalists, bloggers, cooks and the food loving public in general, Chef and I have an online relationship. Over the weekend, I had spied @mattkempbalzac ‘tweeting’
“Our special tonight at Balzac. A whole shoulder of suckling pig for two!!!”
“beautiful suckling pig shoulder special tonight!!! Got them from bangalow pork!! Served with apple & cardamom!!”
“photos coming up soon of balzacs suckling pig tonight!!! Hold on for some good looking PIG!!”
You may remember as a regular reader, that I not only was born in the Year of the Pig, but I hold a great fondness for them in the eating. So iPhone finger at the ready, a message was frantically typed (with other fingers crossed) in the hope there would be one of the weekend’s portions left over for my Monday night dinner. Hopefully all sold out Chef said. Alas I thought, but the promise of the Monday menu’s pork belly soon lifted my spirits. Monday comes, dinner comes and there was indeed a suckling pig shoulder for the pig princess. And we’re still not at the stuffing. The stuffing was my plate, half of his crackling and all of the black pudding. So very much enjoyed, the black pudding was moist and wet and tasty with beautiful creamy texture. Such a lovely compliment to the perfection of pork and potatoes. What a lovely offset to the apples and carrots. Roast heaven!
From pre dessert of Champagne Jelly with Watermelon Mint Salad with new summer energy it was time to move on - to desserts. Another additional treat of fluffy sugary doughnuts – thank you Chef! - to accompany the order of my delicious plum pudding (take a look at the photo – not the traditional kind but rather an iced treat of summer fruit) Ice Plum Parfait with Sorbet. Now while Mr Kemp – as his delightful floor staff call him - won me over with the doughnuts and dessert, I have to say just the look of that other dessert (that I didn’t get to taste) Cannelloni of Lemon Cream with Poached Strawberries and Lemon Verbena got me going. Not least of all because the lemon curd looked perfect, and also because the poaching of strawberries has now too long fallen out of favour, but mostly because way back when (when I was a small child and first grew herbs) lemon verbena was one of my first gardening discoveries.
This is truly a marvellous restaurant with a very talented chef who takes you to new heights with his British nod to the best of European cuisine. Take your time, book your taxi and take a trip. It’s closer than you think to heaven.
141 Belmore Road
Randwick NSW 2031 Australia
+61 2 9399 9660