After a great day in Sydney I headed of to dinner to catch up with my friend Bella at Restaurant Arras.
Restaurant Arras is on Clarence street (relocated from Walsh Bay in late 2011) and was an easy taxi ride from my hotel (though the driver did turn onto Clarence street too early and as it is only one way we had to go around the block again before I was deposited outside Arras).
I pushed opened the doors and walked up the few stairs and immediately spotted Bella already seated at a table. I indicated to the gentleman on the desk that I knew where I was going and went over to join Bella.
Arras is in a great space. Nicely lit, interestingly decorated and the tables are well spaced. I think there were eight tables downstairs, and all were occupied at some stage during the evening. The bathrooms are upstairs, along with another eight or so tables, none of which were in use. The large middle table held wine and the drawers contained cutlery. All the food was brought up from the kitchen on wooden trays, which were placed next to this table and then served to the customers.
After getting settled in and admiring the chairs and the room, we were offered menus, with a brief explanation of the options (a la carte, kitchen menu or eight course degustation). I don’t think there was any ever doubt that we would do the degustation.
We were also offered the wine menu and we started with a glass of champagne, though I can’t remember what it was now. The one thing I did find in regards to service was the slowness of giving us the wine list, taking our order, putting out the glass ware and then pouring the wine. There was a gap of at least five minutes between each process, which didn’t seem necessary, especially as the restaurant wasn’t busy.
Before we ordered wise, we were offered two canapes. The one on the left was ox tongue and the one on the right was a cucumber wrap.
Once we had advised the staff of our degustation wish, the courses proper started, with an amuse bouche of ricotta and a cauliflower puree. It was divine.
You will have to forgive the lack of details about the dishes. Bella and I have been friends for 11 years, first meeting on a Contiki tour of Europe. She has spent the last nine years living in the UK and has only just moved back to Australia. So, our focus for the night was catching up, and while I know I really really enjoyed the food at Arras, I am hazy on the details (also doesn’t help writing this post three weeks after the event) and we didn’t really discuss the food much, we just ate and enjoyed it.
Bella’s first course was smoked eel, carrot salad, bacon and Banyuls apple.
While mine was jellied cous cous.
The presentation of each dish was amazing.
The next course was seasonal vegetables, apple and carrot, ricotta and nasturtium.
This came with a separate spoon of croutons that we could add as we wished. We both ended up tipping them all on.
Bella than had the skate, parsnip, raisins, capers and butter.
I missed what the waitress said my dish was but I think it was quail with fried bread and blood plum.
The next dish was lamb – breads and tongue, mustard, tarragon and black garlic.
Then we had duck, cherries, red cabbage and clear onions.
Our final savoury course was rabbit, grains, pistachio and carrot.
The carrot was loaded with pepper!
And, in case you are wondering, yes, we were quite full by this stage.
But we are troopers, so dutifully activated our dessert stomachs in preparation for the sweet onslaught. We were offered the option of a cheese course (for a supplement) and as much as we both love cheese, we had to decline as it would have pushed our all ready full stomachs over the edge. The cheese cart was sitting right behind us, and we could smell it every time they rolled it out, so it was hard to say no.
The first dessert was rhubarb, cranberry, raspberry and “chai”.
It was presented as above and the chai added at the table through a lovely T2 tea strainer.
This dessert wasn’t my cup of tea (pun intended) I much preferred the second dessert; mascarpone, coffee ice cream and grappa jelly.
And then for the finale, the famous Arras petit fours. Coloured trays were placed in front of us in anticipation of what was to come. Tea was also served. I was very happy that Arras had jasmine tea, and Bella was very happy they made her fresh mint tea.
And then, after watching it be taken to other tables all through out the evening, it arrived at ours, the petit four selection.
I think we both had the biggest grins on our faces!
The selection isn’t as daunting as it looks. The tray is basically split into four and each piece (except for the cones and the items on sticks) is repeated in each quadrant.
I will say the gentleman who presented this to us did a fabulous job of remembering what was what and of being very patience while we made our choices. A lot of the items were Arras’ take on Australian classics such as the Bounty and Aero bars.
This is what I ended up, mostly chocolate unsurprisingly.
The chocolate block had olives in it, I can’t remember what the back item was, then I had a piece of honeycomb and the bounty bar and the refreshing mango sorbet.
I really loved Arras, this meal would be my best fine dining experience in Sydney. There was a longish gap between some of the courses but it wasn’t an issue as we didn’t need to be anywhere. The staff were very professional and were also happy to flag down a taxi for us at the end of the evening. The presentation of each dish was amazing and I thought all the flavour combinations worked well.