BISTROT AVOCA Randwick ** Has permanently closed!!
** Dear readers, this restaurant has permanently closed!!
On the Bistro Avoca web site it reads, “serving exquisite contemporary Australian cuisine in a refined yet casual setting….”. Well dear readers I’m just going to have to say that thier short, modest description about this bistro does not do it the justice it deserves as it has so much more to offer as I was pleasantly surprised. The bistro would be better classified as French with a hint of Australian influence. The Chef de Cuisine Leonard Michaud has taken this petite restaurant in Randwick and elevated it to a level that leaves you wondering (after you have licked that last drop of lemon beurre blanc of your fork) whether you’re in a Michelin starred restaurant in Paris. As it happens, Chef Michaud has worked in Michelin starred restaurants in Paris and London and is now here in Randwick to share his passion for cooking and expertise with us all.
Usually when I get those French food cravings (which is often I must admit) I tend to venture out a bit dismissing our local restaurants in order to escape my every day surroundings and reality for a while. Bistro Avoca is a short distance from home and I drive past it nearly daily reminding myself that I should dine there one day soon. Fast forward to at least five years later I finally decided to make the time to and go investigate what this little Bistro is all about. What better time to book a table pour deux than for our anniversary and to have some cosy, intimate romantic moments over wine and dinner with the aromas of French cuisine in the air that would no doubt take us on a culinary journey back to Paris where so many happy memories were made.
We arrive at the door and immediately see directly into the heart of the premise from the over-sized windows minus window treatments with only crisp white Bistro Avoca signage. We walk in and are instantly surrounded by warmth and loveliness as the tea candles flicker on tables resting on dark wood floors and black and white striped cushions elegantly rest on high back dark banquets that are reminiscent of a chic Parisian salon. The walls and tables all draped in white and condiments in glass shakers host little French flag cocktail toothpicks. A large mirror hangs on the left wall creating the illusion of more space and a selection of wooden chopping boards hang on the back wall in an eclectic array – a nice touch I think. The sounds of French accents make me smile and a chalk board with “Viva La France” written on it that hangs above the counter – a nice nod to France and the cuisine to be anticipated. Delicious aromas entice me as we are pleasantly greeted and escorted to our table in the more intimate back room that is in close proximity to the kitchen but cosy non the less. A few tables for two are occupied by pleasant looking couples taking the opportunity for some quiet time and romance as well. The diners seem pleased with their choices engaged heavily in their food and conversation. The theme of white table clothes and dark wooden chairs and furnishing continues with lovely Australian sketch prints on the wall above our table and a console in front displaying a small selection of wines. Our waiter/proprietor presents us with the wine and dinner menus and offers kindly if we would like an explanation of the menu without being aware that he has a Francophile and French cuisine aficionado in his presence. I politely decline a run-down of the menu but ask if there is a Merlot that he could recommend instead. As he floats away in pursuit of our wine I happily discover one of the degustation dinner menus is titled “A Night in Paris”- I’m convinced the staff knew I’d be coming by that evening. Smooth jazz plays gently in the background and the delights that the menu “A Night in Paris” promises fills me with warm content – I’m once again in a happy place.
FOOD AND WINE
The bistro aims to please with a selection of menus recreated for each season by Chef Michaud to suit the varying tastes and budget of diners. There are the seasonal A La Carte entrees, mains and dessert menus that offer many delightful French classic choices with a hint of modern Australian inspiration. There are some nice choices of red and white Australian and New Zealand wines and soon there will be a selection of French wines to make a chic addition to the wine list. We are in winter now, so the menus offer invitingly warm and hearty dishes accompanied by richer sauces. The crispy braised duck leg with onion puree, the trio of veloute, Morton Bay bug ravioli lemon beurre blanc and peach foie gras on a winter garden, vanilla crème brulee with caramelized orange and chocolate soufflé with a salted caramel sauce excite the imagination (go to Bistro Avoca’s website to see menus in full). There is also a tasting menu, or what I would call a deluxe menu, for a set price of $59 that offers a lovely selection of five dishes including dessert, coffee/tea that introduces you to Chef Michaud signature preparation and style. Then there is the “Night in Paris” menu (our choice for the evening) for $79, which I would label the super deluxe menu, that includes fancier options like the seared tuna with Jerusalem artichoke and celeriac with saffron sauce, Waygu beef eye fillet with oxtail croquette and parsnip chips and confit garlic, Peach Fois Gras to name a few. All menus include deliciously warm, fragrant baked bread on arrival with considerately diced softened butter. When a restaurant shows attention to such small details I instantly know I’m going to be well looked after.
We greedily devour our Morton Bay Bug ravioli licking the lemon beurre blanc sauce off our lips and plates. We float in Parisian clouds over the peach foie gras and seared tuna with Jerusalem artichoke and melt like that famous French butter over the Waygu beef eye fillet dish cooked to glorious perfection. With every dish I’m left wondering if were really dining in a bistro in Randwick (and for such a reasonable price) and not in a fancy hotel brasserie in Paris. The dishes and sauces are made to mouth-watering and silky perfection, the presentation outstanding and I’m still dreaming of that chocolate soufflé with salted caramel sauce. I imagined the chef to be 50 years of age with 30 years of experience so refined and sophisticated is his cuisine. However, I’m pleasantly surprised when kindly introduced to a very young and handsome chef who seemed personable and very down to earth.
From the moment we arrived at the door we were greeted warmly and immediately escorted to our table without any delay or fuss. Our waiter for the evening was easy going yet professional and made a sincere effort to make us feel cosy, relaxed and well fed. As we discovered later into the evening our waiter who also a part proprietor of the bistro and his passion and dedication was clear not just to the food but to his clientele. He spent just enough time assisting with the food and wine menu as is necessary and chatted away pleasantly to us and the other diners without being too intrusive. We were considerately asked whether we needed more or less time between courses and his choice of the 2013 Schild Estate Barossa Valley Merlot was perfect and complimented our dishes well. When our last course was due to arrive he noticed our wine glasses were nearly empty so offered us a complimentary glass of wine of our choice.
When you’re left dreaming about a chocolate soufflé and Peach Foie Gras or a melt in your mouth beef eye fillet
It’s lovely and generous moments and gestures like these that make you feel warm and welcomed with a desire to return and repeat the experience