Paua Restaurant
555 Crown Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
(02) 9319 2976

While surfing the net, I came across a reference to a new “regular night” at a local Surry Hills restaurant. The “Bouillabaisse Night” at Paua Restaurant was described as providing “mouth watering culinary delights to give Sydney palates something to yearn for.” Give it a go? Yeah, why not.

Neither Damien nor I had eaten bouillabaisse before, so it required some research. What exactly is it and what do we drink with it? And is Paua any good?

Likewise, neither of us had been to Paua before. It’s a relatively new restaurant, which, since arriving back in Sydney I’ve noticed has always been reasonably busy. Opened by chefs Andrew Saxon and Alice Hyde, it operates in what used be a local delicatessen/cafe and seems to have found a niche for itself in the Indian, Thai, Turkish conflagration of that end of Crown Street.

“Andrew Saxon: Former head chef from Le Lavandou in Sydney, Euphorium in London and Paramount in Auckland. He was also a former Pastry Chef from Smiths of Smithfield in London and Sous Chef at New Zealand’s acclaimed Vinnies in Auckland.

Alice Hyde: Former Sous Chef from La Mensa in Sydney, Euphorium in London and Chef de Partie at Smiths of Smithfield in London.”

Thanks to Damien’s New Zealand heritage, an understanding of why it’s called Paua became obvious, as the bill was served in a Paua shell, common in NZ.

What is it? “Bouillabaisse is a fish dish traditionally served in two great steaming bowls. One contains the aromatic fish bouillon – with classic accompaniments of oven roasted French bread rubbed with garlic and Rouille. In the other bowl are the poached fish.”

On the arrival of the meal we were instructed, as was everyone else in the restaurant that there were two ways to consume the meal. One involved consuming the bowls separately, the other involved combining them together. We chose the “combination option” because it seemed the most logical way of combining some of the stronger flavours set before us, including the soup and the gruveye cheese.

So, we began with the croutons, then the cheese and then soup. The croutons quickly absorbed both the cheese and the soup and provided an extremely tasty mush which I thought was “very Sunday night”. And then it was time to add the two varieities of fish although, unfortunately, neither of us could actually decipher what varieities they were. What I can say, however, is that one of the varities contained a lot of bones. Looking around the restaurant, it bordered on the comic to watch so many people removing fish bones from their mouths.

What to do drink with it? Well of course, we went to the internet to discover that “Bouillabaisse’ hearty flavors suit a wide range of wines. As long as you choose something with good acidity and a fairly assertive personality, you should have a nice match. Sauvignon Blanc-based whites, including white Bordeaux, would probably be my pick, because the Sauvignon flavors complement the tomatoes, onions, and fennel in our bouillabaisse recipes.” We chose a drop a 2005 Cape Mentelle Semillion Sauvigon Blanc from WA (excellent, fruitier than expected, but not citrus) that met with these ideas although, looking around the restaurant, we noticed one table where they’d actually brought a full bodied Shiraz with them. Had we missed something? Did they know something we didn’t know? Or were they “wankers who only drank red”? We shall never know, but we did think the wine combined well with the food.

Flavours? Although Damien thought the taste of chilli in the accompanying soup was strong, I didn’t actually pick that up. Maybe it’s my desire for reasonably hot foods, but I thought it seemed reasonably mild. Overall though, we thought the tastes were a little “one dimensional” and were probably a little disappointed in some ways. Nonetheless it was a terrific night and one to mark up to experience.

But the deserts? Ah yes, they were different. They were terrific. Unlike our experience at Marque Restaurant, where we found the deserts disappointing, these were classic French deserts done very well. I had the rosewater flavoured pannacotta with stewed fruits and Damien had the creme brulee. Both were excellent.

Overall, a good night… but not great. Over dinner we discussed that it was probably time for another visit to Becasse, which is a terrific French restaurant on Albion Street,
Surry Hills.


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