Friday, January 7, 2011

Let the Fireworks Begin!

New Year's Eve Lunch at Ad Lib Bistro - Pymble
If you've been following our food adventures, you could be forgiven for thinking that we'd eaten quite enough by the time 2010 came to an end. But given an opportunity to eat out again, how could we resist?

Not only were we celebrating the belated Christmas Day birthday of our dear friend Lol, I'd promised her Mum a fancy meal out as she'd been very kind when I was ensconced in a hospital earlier this year where she works part time.

Ad Lib was nearby and had received rave reviews.
The innovative menus at this French influenced restaurant, (for the stationery hounds amongst you, narrower than A3 but longer and wider than Foolscap), were printed on brown paper stock and folded into a neat packet which sat on our bread plates. Head Chef, Dietmar Sawyere, declares on their website that this is a restaurant which is "looking less to surprise with unexpected flavours but rather to satisfy with delicious ones, sensual pleasure rather than intellectual pleasure ..."  (Poking a tongue out at molecular gastronomy perhaps?!) We firmly believe they delivered on that promise.

There were so many great sounding dishes that it was difficult to choose but there were four of us and we all chose something different so that we could try as many dishes as possible.

Les Hors D'Oeuvres Classiques - ranging from $10 for the Soup of the Day to $85 for the Oscietra Caviar,
Lol had:

 Soup of the Day - Truffled Cauliflower
As a lover of truffles, I was sorely tempted by this and while I didn't select it in the end, I did have a taste and I think I'm going to have to go back and have myself an entire bowlful. Unfortunately, as part of their Seasonal Dishes menu, I'm going to have to find out when peak cauliflower season ends!
I had:
Sugar Cured Salmon, Toasted Brioche, Herb & Shallot Mascarpone
This was a beautiful combination of flavours which seemed to echo one of the dishes in my Boxing Day menu yet I so love Salmon that I had to have it. It didn't disappoint.
Yaya had: 
Kingfish Carpaccio, Lemon Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Which was sitting on a bed of celeriac remoulade, YaYa was expecting the lemony flavours to be a bit stronger but the kingfish was wonderfully fresh.

Les Plats Principaux - from $25 for the Boudin Noir to $98 for the Grilled Aged Beef Rib Eye
Lol had:

Boudin Noir, Caramalised Pear, Celeriac
This is Ad Lib's version of a blood sausage, something I would probably never order, yet having had a small taste, I can tell you that it was enough to change my mind. It's a shame that I'm not short of iron as this course would certainly be an easy way to increase my intake!
I had:
 Roast Lamb Rack, Baked Aubergine, Olives, Madeira Jus
In hindsight (it was a hot day), this was a little heavy and way too much given my intention to have 3 courses. Luckily the others helped me out. The lamb, although cooked to perfection as far as my order and sufficient for as much as I wanted to eat, was probably just a little raw and a little chewy closer to the bone but I was happy to leave that part on the plate.
Yaya had:
Steak Tartare
Dotted with a tiny quail's egg yolk, the small mound of beef proved to need very little else as it was so rich. As an avoider of execessively raw meat, it wasn't enough to make me try it but YaYa seemed to like it.
Lol's Mum had:

Sugar Cured Salmon, Main Course Size
My Hospital Angel, who had declined an entree, chose to have one of the starters as a main course, something which is not only available but encouraged and so good to see! So often you want to eat 3 courses but the mains feel too heavy or you just love the sound of the entrees more. So here is a main course offering of the Sugar Cured Salmon.

Sides - from $8 for the French Fries to $10 for the Gratin Dauphinoise Potato
We shared:
French French Fries & Mayo and Green Beans
Of course we had to have the French Fries for you know I love my potato. They were crispy outside and fluffy inside and hot and just salty enough. The beans were beautifully crisp without being limp and I found myself wondering where they sourced their beans.

Les Desserts - ranging from $3 per scoop of sorbet to $12 for everything else
Lol had:
Pear Tarte Tatin, White Chocolate Ice Cream
With a crispy, caramelly pastry moulded lovingly over a single pear half, this is surely a decadent dessert for the cost.
Lol's Mum had:
Raspberry Souffle
Requiring a 15 minute delay in the serving, we were encouraged to order this and by all accounts it was certainly worth the wait.
Yaya had:
Raspberry Sorbet & Dark Chocolate Icecream
A light, refreshing combination for those who ate too much in the first two courses!

As pretty much all of the desserts contained egg in some form or another, I chose to have the:

Selection of Cheeses - $12 for a single serve to $24 for a Plate for 2
The cheeses themselves were, on the whole, lovely but unremarkable however they were served with  the most comprehensive selection of bread/crackers both in variety and volume for a single cheese platter! Very generous and YaYa who generally doesn't like goat cheese found the goat selection excellent on this plate!
As the lunch service was fairly quiet (unlike every evening where the dining room looked packed to capacity when driving past), we secured a front of house table, that is, one which looks out on both the Pacific Highway, on which the restaurant is located as well as the side laneway which by contrast was beautifully surburban with its leafy shade. Despite its position on this busy thoroughfare, (there is parking under the restaurant but you have to enter from the laneway at the back) the traffic never distracted; we were way too taken with the food and eating it. Besides which, we want to try more of the menu so we'll definitely be back! : D

POSTSCRIPT: For those who live east of the city, there is a branch of this restaurant open in Double Bay.


  1. oh man ive had the biggest craving for cauliflower soup since it started raining! and ooh rise souffle rise!

  2. We really enjoyed our meal here too! The Double Bay one is much closer though so I can't wait to try that! :)

  3. I love it when I can tick items off my taste list, and to do two in one go even better! Minorly disappointed in the Steak Tartare my first one, I thought the flavours would be a bit stronger, more spicier but then as it's my first one, maybe I haven't had enough to compare! And a sweet souffle can also be ticked off, the raspberry one here is a corker and highly recommended!

  4. I have a booking in a couple of weeks so am really looking forward to trying some of these...can't wait for the souffle!!!

  5. Great post, the souffle looks fantastic. Wag

  6. I really love cauliflower soup, but truffled, yum.

  7. wow the pics look fantastic. i'll have the blood sausage and the steak tartare and the raspberry souffle. lol.

  8. Can't wait to dine here! There isn't one dish here that I don't want to try!

  9. Love this place. Finally a French Bistro close to home. All the food looks delicious.

  10. The husband and I really enjoyed our meal here and I had that souffle too! Subsequent friends who've eaten here on our recommendation haven't been disappointed either.