The Little Snail Restaurant & Bar – Pyrmont
Dear readers, I’m not sure about you but I have a love not just for all things French but for all things snail. Whether I am having the Escargots a la Bourguignonne, Escargot a l’Alsacienne, Escargot a la Provencale or even the hearty Cassoulet d’Escargots this signature French dish is just one of those things I can’t resist ordering time and again whenever I visit a French restaurant. For me, anything with snail or Escargot in the title is exciting and The Little Snail Restaurant, here in our vibrant suburb of Pyrmont, is one that mon mari and I seem to have visited the most over the years and look forward to returning to time and again. The Little Snail or la petit escargot is “little” by name but in fact quite impressive indeed. Situated on the edge of Pyrmont and Sydney’s iconic Darling Harbour, the venue stands noticeably proud with an ample dazzling view of the Darling Harbour skyline and curves like a snail shell along the intersection just beside. This delightful and scenic French restaurant has been serving up authentic and delicious French cuisine, and not only snails, at decent prices for over thirty years now and for twelve years at its current Pyrmont location. Although it has changed hands and locations a number of times from Bondi to Broadway to Pyrmont it has somehow managed to retain a high standard and even improve over time.
The Little Snail restaurant, has an impressive scale and interior that lures and welcomes you the moment you step through the front door. A stunning horseshoe sand stone, wood and marble bar with a vibrant glass backsplash, reflects sparkling scenes of Darling Harbour and greets diners with a stunning display of spirits , French wine and champagne. Barmen impress guests with their cocktail mixing, juggling and shaking skills as they prepare equally dazzling drinks that rest like colourful jewels on an elegant counter top waiting to be whisked away to diners. A striking seating nook by the bar hosts an over sized exotic fish tank, comfortable sofas and a lovely print of Paris where a group of us sit happily, cocktails in hand, taking in the spectacular floor space and scene as we wait to be escorted to our table upstairs. The restaurant is bustling with activity on this Saturday evening as waiters, dressed in black and white, hurry to and fro taking and delivering orders and the ground floor of the restaurant, with its breathtaking views from its wrap around floor to ceiling windows, is filled to capacity with diners enjoying time out on the weekend. As we are taken to the premier atage and climb up the beautiful winding staircase with a pretty wood and lacey wrought iron banister.
As always, I am once again in complete awe of the twinkling views and loveliness of the interior which takes on more of a rustic and Provincial aesthetic in comparison to the more modern feel of the ground floor. A delightful display of red vibrant tulips and French inspired impressionistic art, wooden chairs and elegantly dressed tables greet us as we take a seat at our table with a fabulous view by the restaurant’s expansive windows. The windows maximise the views as they wrap graciously around the circular space that for me seems to almost deliberately and whimsically mimic the curvy shell of a snail offering a delightful nod to the title of the restaurant. A lovely rich toned wood and sand stone curvature brick feature wall adds to the rustic, Provincial feel of the first level and is offset by a slice of wooden flooring which curves gracefully around the wall. The aroma of garlic, rich sauces and wine filled the restaurant with the warm and comforting smells of a French kitchen amplifying the anticipation of heavenly escargot and crusty bread. Just as we raised our glasses and toasted to getting together and to all things French Darling Harbour joined in our celebration of friendship and French cuisine by dazzling us and the skyline with its spectacular Saturday night firework clearly seen through the expansive windows.
The Little Snail Restaurant’s menu is not specific to one region of France but draws from many regions offering signature dishes to specific regions like Provence, Burgundy, Marseille and Normandy that are exciting, consistently well presented and prepared and what you hope to find on a French menu. While the majority of the menu remains the same throughout the year they do make special additions to their menus’ according to the seasons – so very French indeed! There are three menu suggestions which cater to adults, children, people of all tastes, whims and budgets that include a 3 course dinner menu where diners can select any entrée, main and dessert for a very reasonable $62 that includes delicious and hard to resist items like Boulette de fruits de mer, Bouillabaisse de Marseille, Salmon roulade, Escargots de Bourgogne, Cote de veau, Magret de canard, handmade profiterole, classic crème caramel, Kahlua infused chocolate mousse just to name a few. There is also a delightful lunch menu and an A La Carte menu which offers similar items to the set priced dinner menu only it will end up costing you up to $30 more per person if you order 3 courses and sides. Drinks are not included on any menu and is an additional charge and the restaurant’s bar produces some of the best cocktails I’ve tried in Sydney and offers a lovely selection of spirits, wines from Australia, France and New Zealand and is fully licensed.
Mon mari and I have sampled many items from The Little Snails menu and found that the restaurant delivers consistently authentic, flavourful and beautifully presented food time and again. On the night, mon mari, myself and a group of friends ordered from the set menu and highly enjoyed every item. Some stand out dishes include the Fillet of Beef Tenderloin (served with potato millefeuille and red wine jus, Magret De Canard (crispy skin duck breast fillet served with cassis and raspberry sauce), Cote de Veau (veal tenderloin with champignon and chardonnay beurre blanc sauce served with potato croquette) and of course the Escargots de Bourgogne. Also, do try The Little Snails Pate Maison (Armagnac flavoured duck liver pate with marinated champignons and date chutney with port vinaigrette), Bouillabaisse de Marseille and not to forget their heavenly classic crème carame, chocolate Belgian Gateau and hand made Profiterole with crème patisserie and chocolate sauce. Service here is very friendly, genuine, consistent and non intrusive and staff generally have a sound knowledge of the menu and complimenting wines. The restaurant specialises in special functions and hosts events throughout the year such as Valentine’s day, New Year’s, Mother’s and Father’s day lunch, Bastille Day lunch/dinner. Check their very easy to follow website for more information and to take a peek at their menus and event dates on thelittlesnail.com.au
I sometimes wonder, dear reader, if a snail finds it problematic carrying its shells on its back, how they get food in their mouths or if they can stick to ceilings. The saying “the hand that dips into the bottom of the pot will eat the biggest snail” and “by perseverance the snail reached the ark” are one of my favourites. The French share my fascination with these mysterious and very delicious gastropod molluscs and have even arranged the arrondissements of Paris to reflect the winding motion of the snail shell, have written poems, nursery rhymes and songs in honour of this little creature that has become synonymous with the cuisine of France. The French have mastered preparing and eating them in a variety of ways always accompanied with some hearty red wine, preferably from Burgundy, and some crusty baguette to soak up all the sauce or garlic butter left on the plate. Many people are surprised to discover that it was actually the Romans who introduced their favourite snail snack to the French and taught them how to cultivate snail farms and explained how to feed and help them grow fatter and faster. The Little Snail Restaurant in Pyrmont, is like that perfect morsel of snail in garlic butter sauce on a piece of baguette and will truly excite, delight and impress you with its warm and inviting ambience and grand views of Darling Harbour to maximise your dining experience. Even if you get to The Little Snail Restaurant at a snails pace or perhaps a little faster just get there soon and I promise that you won’t be disappointed or be left without your shell. Dear readers, are you entranced by The Little Snail Restaurant and Bar inspired by France?
3/50 Murray Street, Pyrmont T: 02 9212 7512