What: Le Petit Deux la Nuit.
Where: 27 King Street, Newcastle.
Prices: Entrees $19, mains all $35, sides all $8, desserts all $13, bread $3; cheese plate $26.
Chef/owner: Lesley Taylor.
Wines: Hunter Valley, French, New Zealand and other Australian; eight by the glass. BYO, $6 per bottle corkage.
Hours: Dinner, Wednesday-Saturday from 6pm.
Vegetarian: One entree.
Bottom line: Entree, main and dessert, $134 for two without drinks.
Wheelchair access: Reasonable.
First there was Le Petit Deux with its plats du jour and French bistro-style lunch menu. Now, Lesley Taylor and her team have extended the service to include evenings, and have brought the food you enjoyed at Restaurant Deux to this smaller, more intimate space.
That French bistro standby, vichyssoise, makes an appearance in a miniature soup tureen as an elegant amuse bouche. Cold, creamy and bursting with leek, potato and a good stock, it wakes the taste buds for what is to come.
The menu is small but tuned to the seasons. Tonight there are just five entrees, six mains (including one daily special) and five desserts, and the fish of the day is snapper.
Snails (escargots) may be a French cliche but if you are to try them anywhere here is the place. The local variety is plump and tender and a far cry from traditional rubbery offerings drowned in butter and garlic. I love the way they are teamed with pieces of chicken ‘‘oyster’’ (Lesley uses the French ‘‘sot l’y laisse’’ – literally ‘‘the fool leaves it there’’, as this delicacy is often left behind on the chicken carcass), crisp chicken skin and a tumble of wild mushrooms.
Another entree comprises dollops of pristine white cauliflower mousse interspersed with a melange of miniature heirloom vegetables (al dente white turnip, purple beetroot, golden carrot, pink radish, yellow and red cherry tomato), micro herbs, borage flowers and nasturtium petals and a sprinkling of olive oil powder.
You could be forgiven for ordering a side of fluffy potato puree or an extra sourdough roll in order to scoop up every last drop of any of the sauces that accompany the mains. No dollops, smears or dribbles here. Lesley is a master saucier and each dish comes with its own small jug of the appropriate jus to be poured over the meat at the table.
A very Provencal, lavender-infused jus is an appropriate accompaniment to the perfectly pink, well-rested Cowra lamb and its miniature ratatouille. Bright green asparagus spears, garden peas, miniature carrot balls, a caramel-edged roast onion and potato and carrot purees round things off nicely.
Wild rabbit is presented two ways. The ‘‘baron’’, or the boned saddle and hind leg, is rolled, stuffed and roasted and the trimmings are formed into a patty that is then crumbed and fried (an ‘‘epigramme’’). Caramelised onion, tiny double-podded broad beans and a cepe (porcini mushroom) cream completes a complex, earthy dish.
‘‘Meringue’’ falls far short of describing the combination of tart lemon curd ice-cream, fresh blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and mulberries, nut crumble and berry coulis, punctuated with dollops of meringue. It looks almost too pretty to eat.
For a truly refreshing finale you can’t go past tonight’s dessert special. Light strawberry jelly studded with in-season strawberries gets a zingy lift from the mandarin sorbet, and a satisfying crunch from some nut crumble.
A little bit of Paris has come to King Street. Sit back and enjoy.