Five Regions of France

Becasse Restaurant
48 Albion St Surry Hills 2010
(02) 9280 3202

This was the third time we’ve been to Becasse, a terrific restaurant on Albion Street, Surry Hills. And it was probably the best.

We started off the night at the newly refurbished, White Horse Inn on Crown Street, Surry Hills. After being closed for about six years, what was once a reasonably dodgy pub has received a $2 million makeover. Following in the footsteps of the refurbishment of The Clock, and with another planned development, Surry Hills is, belatedly, turning into a bona fide yuppie area.

Becasse is a modern Australian restaurant devoted to serious, classically french-inspired food. NZ-born Head chef Justin North gained experience in some of the best restaurants of Sydney and France, before opening up Becasse with maitre’d Georgia a few years ago. Only opening for dinner four nights a week, a highlight is the themed degustation held on the first Sunday of each month. Usually they look at the food and wine of a particular French region; this time, they chose a flying visit of five of the most famous areas in France.

Veloute of Haricot Blanc with a Foie Gras Chantilly: Served in a small teacup, this luke-warm soup was a standout, with flavours of potato and shallot combining well with the dollup of fois gras in the centre. At once elegant and hearty, it set the tone for the meal.

Loire Valley Terrine of Arctic Char and Confit Potato with a Mille-Feuille of Arctic Char Brandade, Fennel and Caper Sauce: a simple and well-executed slice of layered raw Arctic Char (a type of fish with the texture of sashimi and the flavour of trout) and potato, wrapped in vine leaves atop an intense and tasty white sauce. The Arctic Char Brandade turned out to be a spoonful of pink goo similar to salmon pate between two impossibly fine wafer lattices. Both superb. Served with 2002 Domaine Pierre de la Grange Muscadet that let the food take control.

South-West France Ravioli of Scallop and Lemon with a Ragout of Spiced Pork Cheeks: a salty dish that got saltier as we kept eating (the crispy proscuitto on top no doubt contributed), however it was perfectly offset by the aromatic dryness of the wine. The closest approximation of the 2002 Chateau Lafitte-Ceston Pacherenc du Vic Bilh Sec in Australian terms is viognier, a great white food wine that is rapidly gaining popularity down under.

Burgundy Salad of Pressed, Caramelised Confit of Castricum Lamb Leg with Soubise Puree and Black Olive Vinaigrette served with 2002 Domaine Metrat et Fils “La Roilette”, Beaujolais: sounds more extravagant than it was – we couldn’t escape the fact that the lamb tasted like kebab meat. But excellent nonetheless, the soubise puree (a rich onion sauce) and vinaigrette offering great flavour. The wine was superb – I’d definitely try good beaujolais again.

Rhone ValleyBallottine of Oxtail with Caramelised Calves Tongue, Sweet Corn Veloute and Red Wine Jus served with 2001 Duclaux, Cote Rotie: the heaviest of the courses, and one of the highlights. Don’t be put off by the offal: oxtail is a richly decadent meat and the calf’s tongue was like thick bacon. As usual, the Cote Rotie (a classic shiraz-based appellation in the northern Rhone) was fantastic.

Poached Nectarines in Jelly with Champagne and Vanilla Granita: great palate cleanser.

Bordeaux Tart Tatin of Anjou Pear with Clove Ice Cream and Poire William Anglaise served with 2001 Chateau Doisy Daene, Barsac: never thought I like clove ice cream, but there you go. One of the best desserts we’d ever had, all the better for not relying on super-sweetness to impress. The wine was a good match, sweet yet with a smoky finish that never cloyed.

Another great night at Becasse!

Damien and James.

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