Le Village French Dinner

Andrew Mun
9th Nov 2014

Dining French is as much about the wine as it is about the food, so on an enticing Wednesday night, with my fellow food critic Clare, I booked a table at Le Village, Hunter’s Hill, for one of their event nights - ‘French Regional Tasting’ - an eight course wine matched menu inspired by eight regions of France.

Perched on the corner of Alexandra and Ferry St, in Hunter’s Hill, Le Village is picturesque. Among the sandstone walls and cobbled courtyard of the village complex, the restaurant is housed in a peach coloured villa encased by grapevines, lime trees and various herbs growing with zest in Sydney’s warm spring October.

The lack of outdoor heating, however, pushed our decision to take a seat inside. Out the window, in the tree lined street outside, the Anglican Parish church stood still, briefly lit by distant dusk light from the west. As one can imagine, a late week summer dinner on the terrace before a night out or a cordial Sunday brunch to recover from said night, under their umbrellas sipping their house roasted coffee to church bells, would be time well spent relaxing.

The interior décor is contemporary French with modern paintings adorning the walls, little flower pots garnishing the tables and delicate lace curtains draping the windows, all very elegant, but the hard tables and chairs lacked warmth and comfort for a long cosy seating.

The restaurant also features a shallow open kitchen where diners can gastro-gaze as their meals are being prepared, however, the clashing of pans coupled with the to-ing and fro-ing of waiters at the pass make for a less than desirable table setting for a little tete-a-tete.

The night proceeded with a scant chicken boudin blanc with tarragon and truffle mayonnaise, which was surprisingly bland given the exquisite ingredients named. This was followed up with an equally confusing smoked eel pate on a brioche bun.

As much as these dishes sounded inspired, they just did not really work. As part of a tasting menu, the flavours seemed gauche and out of place. Presented like bistro bites on the plate, they were essentially canapés that one would nonchalantly eat at a wedding as they eased into their wine, which, in this case, was an appreciable tipple of the Charles Collin Champagne Brut and the mellow yet fresh 2012 Michel Bailly Les Griottines Sauvignon Blanc.

This inauspicious start soon improved. The third course, poulet au vin blanc, a dish of confit chicken with crispy skin and shaved foie gras was luscious and smothered with a fragrant and buttery sauce. Unfortunately, the paired chardonnay was no more than table wine with no buttery oak smoothness or stone fruit flavours to speak of, and to which the guest sommelier took offence to when I gave my opinion of it (one that was seemingly less diluted than the wine).

A hearty queue de boeuf bourguignon then followed. Made with an ox tail ragout rolled in pancetta, the dish was gelatinously scrumptious and the accompanying pomme mousseline, as light as an autumn leaf, well paired to carry the dense flavour home. But as proud as this dish stands, it was over salted and the garnishing sparse; three bits of pickled mushroom set along side it added little to the dish almost too literally. The paired 2010 Olivier Gard Pommard Pinot Noir, carrying a hint of spice with its medium cherry tones and other red fruits, however, was splendid.
The last two savoury courses stopped trying to be a bit too clever and as such were simply more balanced. As they had it, the next two wines were also well chosen; the 2011 Château Saint Roch Châteauneuf du Pape blend (Grenache 40%, Syrah 30%, Mourvèdre 30%) and the 2007 Château Chevalier de Lascombes Cabernet Sauvignon being excellent medium bodied reds for the gamey meats that followed.

The duck breast was succulently well cooked and uniquely combined with a smooth Jerusalem artichoke puree. Lashings of jus and artichoke crisps rounded off the dish well with an elusive touch of spice and contrasting crunch. Similarly, the boeuf a la bordelaise was just as thoughtful. The brisket piece was flavorfully braised and balanced with a punchy pea puree dotted around the plate alongside lightly pickled turnips and a bone marrow jus.

As a firm believer that dessert is an essential requirement for the enjoyment of every meal, the chef did not disappoint. Both Clare and I loved the first dessert, a rhubarb topped tart filled with a deliciously light caramel whip hiding a dollop of sharp Armagnac prune paste beneath it. While the sweetness of the caramel enriched the flavours of the prune paste, the syrupy dessert wine, a 2011 Terroirs Calcaires Gewurztraminer, was sickly sweet, but this time, I politely kept my opinion inside my glass.

To end the night was a classical pain d'épices and a hot coffee to bring out the spices. In this version, the gingerbread was crumbled on the plate, and nested on top were quenelles of a dense white chocolate like mousse and slices of poached pears. Although not patisserie art, it was presented well enough in its modern deconstructed aesthete.

In terms of service, my friend and I felt that the service was, well, categorically French. Although the Parisian maitre d’ exhibits sociable vivacity and schmoozes well with the regulars, there is a sense of aloofness with strangers. Other such details like the attentiveness to our water glasses were lacking, but as a bistro and not strictly a fine dining establishment these things are forgivable.

As a suburban restaurant, Le Village has to provide all things to all people, from takeaway coffees, to sharply priced and quick lunches on top of their aspirations to be well respected modern bistro at night.

In any given day, the restaurant delights with the scent of warm baked croissants, the sight of steaming hot bowls of French onion soup condensing in the windows and the crackling sizzle of crispy skinned salmon fat melting into the pans.

As Fernand Point said, “Success is the sum of a lot of small things done correctly.” At Le Village they may have over extended in the number of things they want to achieve, but that said, the decent food, intimate atmosphere and picturesque setting make it place worth visiting and often the experience is greater than the sum of its parts.

Loading Map....
37b Alexander Street
Hunters Hill
+61 2 9817 0289

Mon – Sun 7.30am – 3.30pm

Tues – Sat 6pm – 10pm