Traditional French at it’s finest
Bonjour, Tu as faim ? if you are hungry, then maybe you would like to join us on our first ever venture into French cuisine. French food always has an air of elusiveness about it, one that I am quite intimidated by. However the mystery of how French people are able to maintain their enviously tiny figures yet be able to indulge in butter-laden pastries, cholesterol clogging cheese and cream filled cakes and tarts has piqued my foray into French Cuisine.
On a warm Sunday morning, Howard and I, accompanied by a couple of friends who have just returned from a trip to France decided that it was time for us to go on our gastronomical journey. What better way to introduce us to the world of French food then through the guidance of the charming Francois, owner and chef of La Gerbe d’Or.
La Gerbe d’Or as described by Francois, is an institution which has survived and surpassed the changing times, thus in his own words “must be doing something right”. In an era where fast food has dominated our day to day diet, I find it quite refreshing to come by a place where the owner cooks all the savoury food as ordered and creates his own deserts and pastries placed on display every morning, yet, still finds the time to speak to each of his customers.
Francois’s passion for food is evident in both the way he prepares his creations and his ability to pull up a chair to anyone and discuss at lengths about his experiences and observations of people, culture and their food. With his penchant for all things food and easy going nature, we immediately knew that we were in safe hands. Sensing our apprehension, Francois insisted on a couple items on his rustic menu that we tried, items which encapsulated the essence and tradition of French food.
To start of our meal, I ordered their home made hot chocolate whilst Howard ordered the Cappuccino. As mentioned in previous posts, I’m a fanatic for all things chocolate, thus can embarrassingly confess that I’ve tried most hot chocolates on offer, pre-mixed from the supermarkets included. Each time I get the opportunity to have great hot chocolate I am momentarily transposed into a different world, one where the world stops in its track. The velvety hot chocolate at La Gerbe d’Or is not too hot or diluted, it’s warm enough so that the heat radiates the mug warming my cupped palms. The creaminess of the hot chocolate was very tempting to gulp all in one go and I dare say it gives Max Brennar and Lindt a run for their money in terms of real hot chocolate.
As I was so impressed with my hot chocolate, it was difficult to critique anything else. Anything that I had after the hot chocolate unfortunately was unimpressive. I found Howard’s cappuccino to be too bitter, although this can be attributed to my immature taste buds when it comes to coffee beans.
To whet our appetite, we started of with the mini cheeseless onion and anchovies pizza. Despite the burnt outer layer and the slightly dried texture, the onion together with the tomato when baked was able to bring out a sweetness to it. To Balance out the sweetness, the anchovies and the olives were a welcoming addition.
While blissfully sipping on our beverages and watching the world go by, the waitress brought us the salmon brioche. The buttery soft brioche had its internals removed, only to be replaced with something equally delicious. Filling the void of the brioche were light and gooey (in a good way) salmon scrambled eggs, the slightly salty mixture was then topped by a thin layer of creamy hollandaise sauce. To neutralise the salty salmon and cheese, Francois provided a small serving of freshly blanched spinach.
While taking each of our oders, upon hearing the bacon and egg request, the waitress queried whether we wanted thin or thick bacon. As thin pieces of bacon are readily available from supermarkets and every other cafe, we wanted to try something new, so opted for the thick piece. Upon arrival of the dish, each of our eyes lit up, that’s definitely not the bacon we were accustomed to. Francois boasts that he tediously cured the pork himself according to traditional methods, then fried thick pieces to create a crispy exterior. What amazed us more was once you surpassed the crispy exterior, lies moist salty fibres bathed in thin layers of melting fragrant fat. Despite the attempt of the tomato to balance the fatty bacon and generously buttered toasted baguette, the heaviness of the dish, typical of french food still shines through.
A thick slice of buttered toast, topped with ham, thick cheesey mornay sauce and two sunny side up eggs. Our friends noted that this was a very common thing to eat for brunch in France. With our hot chocolate, we surely do feel like we were in France as well, ooh la la.
Our friend who had just returned from her trip to France commented that French omelette is very different to the normal Aussie one. Wanting to experience a different type of omelette, we ordered the cheese and mushroom omelette. Unfortunately, this was nothing special, and was very much similar to any other omelette that we’ve ever had, my own version included. A thick piece of omelette with melted cheese and sliced button mushroom evenly distributed. Palatable but nothing which screamed ” this is how it taste’s in Paris ” , according to our friends.
Francois personally delivered the next dish. He explained to us that we were provided with three types of Pâté, each to be eaten with the French gherkins. Pâté provided were, Rillettes de Canard, Pates de canard a l’orange and Terrine de campagne provencale.
At first taste, the texture and flavour of the Rillettes de Canard was overwhelming, I couldn’t pin point what type of meat it was, assuming that it was beef, however Francois corrected me, it was actually duck. How could I have not guessed it. The second attempt of the rillette smacked me right in the head, there it was, distinctly the duck essence, with a much creamier texture. Rillette spread atop freshly baked baguettes, accompanied by the sour/salty gherkins, tres bien.
We were taught that making the rillette is a laborous task, requiring the meat to be cooked for several hours, until it was tender enough to be shredded piece by piece by hand. To accentuate the flavours of the rillette, Francois cooked the meat in their own fat. Definitely a dish not to tamper with while detoxing/dieting.
The provencial Terrine was prepared from various types types and cuts of meat, notably veal, pork and duck liver. We were told that this type of pate was originally developed by the poorer people of country France during the 18th century to use up left over bits and pieces. Unlike other pates that I’ve had, this version is much more chunkier, each type of meat was visible and easy to identify in taste.
The basis for the Pates de canard a l’orange, as the name suggests is duck meat. Consisting of ground duck meat, duck liver and pork, mixed with some nuts and flaavoured with herbs and spices, interlaced with orange peel, this pate unlike the previous was very luxurious. The buttery texture easily glides over the baguette, with the orange negating the meatey after taste.
Throughout our meal, Francois regularly chatted to us about the food, explaining each dish at lengths. Observing that we were enjoying each dish, he brought out a home made relish. Due to his thick french accent, I was unable to note down exactly what it was. The closest that this dish came to was a cold meatless bolognaise sauce with what tasted like grilled eggplants. If anyone could identify what this is, please feel free to do so because it tasted great with some freshly baked french baguette.
My philosophy is that a meal cannot be completed without desserts, thus what better way to finish off my wonderful experience but to try a couple of sweets as recommended by the man himself. In recommending this piece, Francois warned me that it should be savoured at a slow pace, bit by bit. Heeding his warning, I jumped right in, only to regret it once I started coughing the cocoa powder and icing sugar. After washing my first attempt down with a glass of water, my second attempt was much more pleasant. The slice consisted of two thin almond meringue with a chocolate hazelnut mousse centre. The best way to enjoy the piece was to take a bite, then slowly let the meringue, with the help of the mousse melt in the mouth.
Having had macaron from both Lindt and King of Macarons, Adriano Zumbo, I had some reservations about La Gerbe d’Or’s. Sure enough each macaron was not perfectly round and aesthetically pleasing as Lindt’s, and the flavour available were not as adventurous and intriguing as Zumbo’s, however the imperfections of Francois’ macaron in conjunction with the flavours that were readily available yet tried and tested gave the macaron an archaic feel to it. The crispy almond shell casing contrasted the chewy filling, thus another addition to my growing list of addictions.
The short crust pastry base aligned with a thin milk chocolate layer was generously filled with soft creamy french custard, topped with fresh vibrant strawberries. Each bite of the tart warrants an explosion of flavours, made possible by the buttery pastry base, slightly bitter chocolate, smooth custard and fragrant sweet/sour strawberry.
La Gerbe d’Or was my first real eye opener into French cuisine. The variety is amazing, considering it is only the solo effort of Francois mastermining his creations. I will have to definitely come back to taste his spread of desserts and other traditional french delicacies. Until next time, Au revoir.
La Gerbe d’Or
255 Glenmore Road
Paddington, NSW, 2021
Ph: (02) 9331 1070