In 2011, my husband and I went through a spell of being addicted to degustation menu’s at Sydney’s top restaurants, always with matched wines of course. It became a bit of a problem when after a year of visiting a different restaurant each month, we became blasé, non-appreciative and had to cut ourselves off. Now we try to only go for special occasions.
My favourite restaurant that sticks in my memory is Oscillate Wildly in Newtown. We went on the recommendation of a friend and were not disappointed. The menu is seasonal, so I can’t recount any of the dishes here, but the place was what made the degustation. The restaurant was small with only a few tables available which lent to the neighbourhood feel. I even remember the couple who arrived late as the babysitter was late, the lesbian couple and the younger couple who left after a couple of courses- I don’t think they quite knew what they were getting into!
My husband’s favourite is Est in the city which we have now been to a few times. The comfortable surroundings and little touches, such as the champagne cart coming around upon arrival, make you feel special. The menu features Australian food with French precision such as the cocoa crusted venison saddle with beetroot, caramelised witlof, pickled blueberries and red leaves.
At the time, Marquee in Surry Hills was the top degustation restaurant. So we went to try the French food with an Australian twist. They serve Kangaroo and Redgate Farm Quail with matched wines from Australia to Spain. I always enjoy tasting the matched wines from different countries and imagining the countryside that the wine came from, or having an Australian wine from a winery that we have been to and remembering it.
Our very first degustation was at Coast in Darling Harbour, so of course we were blown away and returned on numerous occasions for special occasions with friends. It featured lovely décor, a mostly seafood menu including spaghetti with vongole, white wine, chilli and pangrattato, and is now closed.
We went to a French restaurant called Apres a couple of times, which we enjoyed for similar reasons to Oscillate Wildly. It was a neighbourhood restaurant in Potts Point with a nice atmosphere and friendly staff which my husband liked to impress with his French. It had great croquettes, lovely duck and then it closed.
Assiette, another French restaurant in the area that we went to featured dishes such as the white asparagus barigoule with spanner crab, golden beetroot and saffron matched with a 2007 Catrala Savignon Blanc from the Casablanca Valley in Chile. It is now closed.
Becasse in the city, featured delights such as shaved organic Wagyu beef with white asparagus, mushroom and chilled consommé matched with 2009 Spinifex “Luxe”, Barossa Valley, before it closed.
When we went to Bilson’s, the French restaurant that was at the Raddison Blu in the city, my husband found a stone in mushroom starter. Perhaps that’s why it is now also closed.
Maybe the fact that most of the restaurants that we went to degustation’s at in 2011 are now closed is reflective of the fact that fine dining restaurants are struggling to survive in Sydney? Perhaps people are just sick of French food? Or maybe the younger generation don’t want long degustation’s and tasting menu’s are the way forward?
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