GARDEN COURT RESTAURANT
GARDEN COURT RESTAURANT – Sofitel, Wentworth, Sydney
Dining in a French restaurant is already in itself an experience for most of us, however, dining in a French garden in the sky is a French foodie’s dream. Garden Court Restaurant, situated on the 5th floor of the luxurious and iconic Sofitel Wentworth hotel, in the heart of the CBD, is everything you would expect of a restaurant in such an exquisite setting. The French experience is made even more special and in a sense enhanced due to Sofitel being a French International hotel chain with its head office based in picturesque Strasbourg, France.
We drift into the main entrance of the hotel’s captivating lobby greeted by a magnificent circular crystal chandelier that hangs gracefully like a bright sun above a table displaying stunning floral arrangements and luminous candles. Sister crystal chandeliers drop above elegant sofas and chairs and the alluringly sensual signature Sofitel fragrance Eau De Sofitel, something reminiscent of a Chanel perfume, lingers throughout the lobby hypnotising the senses. French inspired candelabras are displayed everywhere and the drama continues to unfold as we notice a small tribute to Carmen the opera as we approach the lift.
The lift doors glide open into the lobby of the Garden Court Restaurant to reveal a centrepiece table and ottomans and a dimly lit smaller scale crystal chandelier suspended above. A sign which reads Bienvenue a
Garden Court please wait to be seated stands beside the counter…We are greeted with hints pertaining to France speckled throughout and by more flickering candles and grand prix sized Veuve Clicquot champagne bottles displayed on custom shelving. A tall console table, anchored by a dark garden screen, displays menus, tea candles, cheese books and more Veuve Clicquot bottles. Next to it a charming light wood wine barrel hosts additional candelabras and lovely French inspired fromagerie platters.
While we wait to be seated, I peak into the dining room enticed by a grand white tulip flower arrangement perched up on a stand. Mint green striped cushioned garden chairs framed in wrought iron sit gracefully beside their round or rectangular table tops atop greyish tiles set in a brick layout. Along the main wall, pineapple motif wallpaper hangs above black and white striped banquets adding to the whimsy and creating a playful yet elegant ambience. Mother in law tongue plants set in black shiny pots create divisions between the Banquet tables mimicking the foliage of the pineapples in the wallpaper. The open plan kitchen framed by a wooden plank wall subtly evokes the sense of an entrance into a mini forest. Copper pendant lights dangle from the kitchen wood-frame suspended by black coiled chords and rest inches away from generously sized red and green open cast iron pots utilised, I assume, during buffet breakfast.
The dining area filled with guests and the murmurs of conversation and the tinkling of glasses. Waiters glide from table to table taking or delivering plates to diners whose faces fill with delight upon receiving their order. A delicious wooden plater filled with delights and artistically presented makes its way to a table near where we await to be seated. I know in advance that I’m going to enjoy dining here amongst striped furnishing and plump pineapples.
FOOD AND WINE
It makes sense when a menu reflects the concept of a restaurant maximising the pleasure of dining as a result. Executive Chef Boris Cuzon has masterfully done just that and created a delightful French inspired menu. There are the items you hope and expect to see like traditionaly prepared duck and steak béarnaise along with the creative Partager menu. Partager means to share in French, a cultural nod to the French art of communal dining stretched out over an extended period of time. The Partager menu items are generously, appetisingly and beautifully assembled on elongated platters, resembling bread boards, as a reminder that you are eating in a lovely “courtyard” or kitchen garden where the notion of casual and refined dining meet. Platters are arranged so vibrantly and eloquently utilising micro herbs, edible flowers and petite vegetables or fruit which enhance the kitchen courtyard experience.
The menu offers a nice variety of regional and Australian sourced seafood, poulty, meat and some vegetarian dishes to please all pallets. When beautiful Australian produce and the French art of preparation come together, in a four and half star hotel setting, you can expect to be served up something incredibly special. The wine and beverage menu also offer an assortment of wines from Australia, New Zealand, Spain and Italy including a few pleasing wine selections from France. There are some reds from the Bordeaux and Burgandy region and whites as well as Rose from the Cotes du Rhone valley.
The sharing boards, the obvious stars of the menu, were one of our first choices as an entrée to share for four. It took us a few minutes to decide which boards to try as all seemed so appetisingly good. There is the Jardiner’s Board comprising of roasted, marinated, grilled and raw vegetables. The Charcutier’s Board which offers a delicious assortment of dried, cured and smoked cold cuts of meat and our choice for the evening The Poissoner’s Board with deep fried, smoked, raw and marinated seafood. Not to forget, there is also the Chef’s Signature sharing board which offers a delightful selection of all three fore mentioned boards – a nice item to have in those moments when indecision strikes.
To complement our Poissoner’s Board we order another entrée to share deciding on the traditional ‘Moules Frites’. The shiny Black shelled muscled, steamed to winey and briny perfection and served with those addictively thin and crispy French fries few can resist. We soak up the mussel juices with the heavenly oven warm bread offered to us with softened butter as we waited for our dishes to arrive – always a nice, generous touch.
A partitioned sauce plate placed on our table on arrival offered seasoned butter, olive oil and pepper to accompany the bread or dishes throughout the evening – another lovely touch. Gorgeously prepared Roasted Heirloom Carrots that glistened and displayed like garden candy served on a bed of leaves with roasted hazelnuts were another delight. Our extravagant but highly rewarding fourth entrée of Freshly Shucked Oysters with a champagne mignoniette sauce made every oyster dance like the cancan in my mouth.
We sipped on our wine and smooth Badoit French still water as we soaked in the warm atmosphere of our surrounds. Our mains arrived shortly after delighting us even more if not as much as our entrees. Perfectly timed to arrive at the same time, our dishes of magnificently presented lamb, salmon, duck and steak at once
command our attention. We all take a small sample taste of each of our dishes pleased and happy with our choices. The Milly Hill Lamb Shank Bourguignon perfumed by heady red wine, falling delicately off the bone and onto a soft bed of polenta and mushrooms was worthy of applause.
The perfectly Grilled Tasmanian Salmon served on a bed of parmesan mash and surrounded by an old traditional pool of orange beurre blanc sauce – an oceanic marvel. The South Windsor Pepe’s Duck Confit glistened like a star from its duck fat and pan juices was delicately perched above its bed of potatoes, bacon and eschallots. My choice of rib eye steak frites with béarnaise sauce was prepared to medium well done perfection – the softness of the meat enhanced by the buttery French sauce. Very rarely can I refuse a nice juicy cut of meat with that vinaigrette infused buttery sauce accompaniment. This time, however, the béarnaise sauce was missing that necessary tarragon and shallot flavouring – a slightly different interpretation but satisfying regardless.
No meal is complete without a fine dessert and what followed truly amazed. Readers, before I continue let me just say that until I tried the Garden Court’s Tahitian vanilla bean infused crème-fraiche ice-cream I honestly
believed no one could make it as sublimely as Guillaume Brahimi. Well, this decadent black specked vanilla ice-cream comes very close and made a delicious accompaniment to the Caramelised Pear. The Sofitel Apple ‘Tarte Fine’ with Calvados ice cream was a delicate treat as was the heavenly Trifle with vanilla custard, berries, whipped cream and grand marnier and served in a clear glass vessel so that the luscious layers would be visible.
As is expected of a hotel based restaurant, the service at the Garden Court was highly professional and friendly. From the moment we were escorted to our table by our lovely waiter, who happened to be from Strasberg Alsace, we experienced a lovely, considerate and attentive service without being too intrusive. Our waiter was highly knowledgeable and gave us a detailed run down of the menu and wine list assisting us in pairing our wine with our food. Our entrees and mains arrived in unison and well timed which elevates your dining experience by not waiting for your friends’ dish to arrive while yours sits in front of you getting cold.
In a perfect francophile’s culinary dream, French garden restaurants float above clouds in historic, luxury hotels and have large expansive windows and doors that open up onto verandas that extend out to the city. The dream is more memorable and sweet when friendly staff deliver perfectly timed and prepared heavenly dishes. Life is good as you sip on your French wine soaking up the lovely atmosphere and contemplating when you are again able to return to repeat your indoor alfresco dining experience. These were my exact thoughts as I smiled with warm approval at my pineapple wallpaper companions and our black and white banquet seat and garden table. When a dining experience is this pleasurable and memorable a repeat visit for me whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner is most definitely on the cards. Dear readers, are you entranced?