Pate is one of those magical foods that arise from otherwise ordinary ingredients. A handful of panfried livers blitzed with butter and cream yields a smooth and elegant paste that demands to be slathered on thin crisp shards of toast.
And yet it's the pickled red grapes on our chicken liver pate starter ($12) that steals the spotlight during our dinner at Macleay St Bistro. Plump and juicy, the grapes have a sharp sweetness that we later discover is a result of bathing in champagne vinegar, sugar, salt and juniper berries. The acidity only seems to amplify the flavour of the grapes--much like strawberries macerated in balsamic--and plays off effectively against the pate.
Macleay St Bistro
Macleay St Bistro sits down the French end of Macleay Street, reasonably understated in decor with touches of Parisien sophistication, like a red lamp shade chanedlier and striking floral wallpaper in black on one wall.
The menu is pared down to four choices in each category of appetisers, entrees, mains, sides and desserts with a handful of blackboard specials.
Salmon rillette with cucumber and fennel salad and lemon mayonnaise $12
After sharing the pate, we move onto the salmon rillette, a squat tower of flaked salmon that is served with a dollop of lemon mayonnaise on the side. I'm more interested in the fennel salad however, thinly shaved and refreshing in flavour, coiled with strips of cucumber and slivers of Spanish onion.
Classic style steak tartare with crostini $21.50
I'd been looking forward to the steak tartare, intriguingly not listed on the menu but said to be a permanent feature on the blackboard. A hockey puck of minced beef is topped with a glistening yolk, ringed with condiments that have been shaped into precise quenelles. Bottles of olive oil, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco sauce are bought to the table and although the waiter offers to mix everything up for me, I happily send him away and relish the opportunity to play with my food.
Mixing a steak tartare is not a pretty sight, no matter how hard you try, although that first pierce of the egg yolk is always worth relishing. Although the concept is to mix according to taste, I find I'm left wanting more shallots and capers, and some of the beef is disappointingly sinewy in parts.
Eye fillet with horseradish creamed potato, red onion jam and red wine jus $35
The eye fillet main is a vision of protein and carbs, a slab of meat resting on caramelised red onions and horseradish creamed potato in a moat of red wine jus. It looks so lonely on its own that our waiter asks if we'd like a salad on the side.
French fries $8
We opt for chips instead. Can you ever have enough carbs? The French fries are shoestring thin and crunchy and generously piled into a bowl.
Char-grilled Riverina lamb backstrap $36
with shaved carrot, pea and cress salad and pea cream
My Riverina lamb backstrap has a reassuring strip of pink in the middle, imprinted with a striking crosshatch of grill marks. Watercress and peas are tossed with pickled shavings of carrot, but where the grapes worked well with champagne vinegar, the sour carrots taste a little harsh to my palate. I do enjoy the pea cream which has an inviting freshness that is comforting as well (that would be the cream, no doubt).
Mango cheesecake with mango sorbet, ginger crumble and coconut sago $15
Mango cheesecake is a reversed composition of mango mousse covered in ginger biscuit crumbs. A scoop of mango sorbet is so deliriously intense with the flavour of mango that it overwhelms the subtlety of the cheesecake. The coconut sago is also a tempting distraction, squidgy pearls cloaked in coconut milk.
Vanilla and honey creme brulee with poached rhubarb and rosewater syrup $15
The vanilla and honey creme brulee is impressively served outside of its mould and delicately wobbly. A layer of blowtorched toffee has an enticing bitterness, pushed to the edges of caramelisation without being burnt. The poached rhubarb provides a tart foil and we're both secretly pleased that the rosewater syrup is so faint it can't even be detected.
Petit fours $3 each
Almond & orange florentine, passionfruit marshmallow and peppermint cream truffle
Petit fours are hard to resist, and the full trio covers all bases. The passionfruit marshmallow is a light and fluffy cloud, two small cubes dusted in icing sugar. There are plenty of slivered almonds in the orange florentine but it's missing the caramel and chocolate I'm expecting, and tastes more like an almond tuile.
A pot of tea, a glass of sticky and a final mouthful of peppermint cream truffle. It's a sweet closure to the meal, but even now, I'm still thinking about those pickled grapes...
Grab Your Fork dined as a guest of Macleay St Bistro
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Macleay St Bistro
73A Macleay Street, Potts Point, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9358 4891
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday 6pm-11pm
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1/19/2012 01:19:00 a.m.