A winning French formula for famous site

    In the North Shore restaurant landscape, 1047 Pacific Highway Pymble is a site that always attracts its fair share of speculation, hyperbole and gossip when a new arrivé opens its doors there  – is this new place any good? Will it outdo its predecessor?

    With a turnover of five restaurants in 16 years, any new kid on the block has a lot to live up or down to, depending on your point of view. Brasserie L’Entrecote, serving traditional French fare, takes on this mantle – and comes out winning.

    Opening in December, it has settled into its skin, serving traditional Gallic cuisine to Sydneysiders with confidence. Staples like twice baked cheese souffle, French onion soup, escargot en persillade, crab and avocado veloute, steak frites, confit duck leg and mussels provide a great opportunity to revisit some French favourites.

    The pedigrees of the three behind Brasserie L’Entrecôte – Francois Pergeo who previously opened a French restaurant in Hornsby in 1986, Vincent Ventura who hails from Bordeaux and Parisien Johan Giausseran – point to a genuine passion for French food and all things French, right down to the Peugeot posters on the walls en route to the washrooms, and every member of staff being the real Gallic deal.

    For entrees, I ordered the crab veloute and found it to be light and refreshing, with a delicate cucumber and avocado partnering, on a day when the temperature outside crackled at 38C. My companions scoffed the twice-baked souffle, a wonderful airy confection of cheeses  which was “subtle but delicious” and the Soupe à l’oignon de grand père François which packed a punch true to its origins, with chunks of cheesy bread lurking in its beefy depths.

    But it’s with the main course that the restaurant has stamped its identity. “Brasserie l’Entrecôte takes a nod from the original ‘Le relais de l’entrecôte’, the famous one dish steakhouse that opened in 1959 in Porte Maillot, Paris,” explains Vincent. “We stick to the original formula – to serve a great piece of sirloin steak with chef’s secret sauce, simply accompanied by crunchy frites and a dressed green salad.”

    It’s the brasserie’s most requested dish, people returning time and again for its simplicity and authenticity. Much like the rest of this menu in which all dishes we tasted were honest, unpretentious, skillfully executed classic French fare. Two of us requested our entrecôte to be just under medium and it arrived cooked perfectly with just a touch of pink. My other dining companion opted for the mussels and a generously-filled cast iron pot arrived, the moules in a delicious buttery broth, with a side of frites.

    The other mains for those not favouring the entrecôte include a range of Plats du Jour (depending on the day you visit) including lamb shoulder, duck supreme, mussels and fish of the day. There are also vegetarian options which the day we visited was mushroom risotto. This is perhaps the only limitation – a few other mains on the menu would offer a wider choice.

    Our mains were accompanied by the house wines – a buttery Languedoc chardonnay and a Rhone Valley Syrah-Granache red which worked well with the entrecôte.

    Dessert was a difficult choice and while one of my companions ordered the tarte tatin – a small stack of caramelised apple slices perfectly coupled with cinnamon ice cream, I let the kitchen choose for me.

    What emerged was a snow-capped tarte au citron – and while I regularly make this at home myself, this version had a meringue topping, pushing it into the realm of lemon meringue pie, tangy and delicious nonetheless. There are also chocolate profiteroles, creme brulee, Tuile de chocolate or assiette de fromages to tempt diners off their calorie controlled regimes.

    Gone are the gloomy drapes that spoilt the views in and out from the last incumbent. The ambience is friendly, the background music played loud enough to hear it was French but not so as to hamper conversation, and the decor modern mingled with traditional: comfy brown leather banquettes and ordinary tables and chairs, a bar area featuring art by head chef François, and the ubiquitous subway tiles behind the bar. At the rear there’s an area featuring an illuminated cellar which can be closed off for private functions.

    The identity of this new arrival is based on a simple concept and one that will undoubtedly win friends and followers in the northern dining scene.

    The lowdown:
    Brasserie L’Entrecôte
    1047 Pacific Highway, Pymble
    Entrees: $15
    Mains:$34 – $41
    Dessert: $12

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