Cafe Sel et Poivre

Sel et Poivre, Cafe
263 Victoria St Darlinghurst 2010
Phone (02) 9361 6530
Fax (02) 9360 8926

This was the fourth of fifth (or maybe sixth or seventh) time I’ve been to Cafe Sel et Poivre. On the first occasion, I was taken by Colin for my birthday, tasting snails for the very first time and loving the Braised Beef Cheeks with a Burgundy Sauce. It was so good that I invited Damien to come along to taste snails for the very first time and to savour the Braised Beef Cheeks with a Burgundy Sauce. He also loved them both so much that we returned once or twice more. Suffice it to say, I think I’m an expert on these two meals.

The snails? At Cafe Sel et Poivre, they really lay the garlic on very heavily. In fact, so heavily the snails are barely recognisiable both in terms of texture and taste.

The beef cheeks? Simply divine! Apparently they’re as cheap as chips to buy and they need a much shorter braising time than beef ribs. For my money, they are also far more tender and succulent. At Cafe Sel et Poivre, the beef cheeks are obviously marinated for a LONG time. By the time they arrive on your plate, they are well and truly ready for consumption. The accompanying sauce, a rich, thick, almost sickly sweet sauce, provides a terrific accompaniment. I have no idea what’s in the sauce, though, aside from a good red wine which appears to have been reduced several times.

The most important thing I have learned though is that colder weather is the best time to enjoy the Braised Beef Cheeks with a Burgundy Sauce. On the occasions when I have had the Braised Beef Cheeks with a Burgundy Sauce on a warmer day (for lunch) they were never as good. I’ve also learned that the Burgundy Sauce is best enjoyed with some chips or bread and that a fairly light Pinot Noir is the best wine accompaniment, providing just the right balance to the sweetness of the sauce and the intensity of the marinade.

Since I’m fairly adventurous with food, I’m not sure why these are the only dishes I’ve enjoyed at Cafe Sel et Poivre. Perhaps there’s something about the cafe that invokes a certain conservatism? I mean that in a good way, though. I mean, I always feel really welcomed and comfortable when I go there. The staff are lovely. The furnishings are comfortable. It’s a great spot… and in lots of ways, better value than Marque, which Damo and I visited recently. However, next time, I will try something different. Perhaps the Oxtail Casserole, or the Blue Swimmer Crab Bisque, or the Slow-Roasted Lamb? And I’ll save enough room for the Creme Berlot.

Seven thumbs!


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