A free-spirit studying psychology at the University of Sydney.
Published January 1st 2017
Provincial French with one of Australia's Happiest Chefs
Picture this: you're sitting in a convivial French restaurant, indulging in garlic-coated Escargot, one delicious snail at a time, when all of a sudden a loud and passionate voice fills the room asking "Are you all happy?" You turn around to find Chef Philippe Lebreux standing behind you and you can totally see how he lives up to his name as one of "Australia's happiest chefs", coined by Channel Nine's 'The Hot Plate'.
Welcome to Chez Pascal, a Sans Souci-based restaurant of thirty years, in which traditional dining meets Provincial French cuisine. That's right, Philippe has been pouring wine and love into his dishes here since 1986, with the restaurant being named after Pascal, his beloved son who shares the family passion for food. It has seen many a full house, and relocation by demand in 2006, to a bigger premise along its Rocky Point Road home.
As you'll notice from his loud and vibrant presence, Philippe takes great pride in walking out of the kitchen and relishing in the sight of guests enjoying themselves in his dining room, having done everything himself. I admire how personalised Chez Pascal is because of this. Not only does he make all meals from scratch, but he'll take the time to talk to you, and get to know you over your visits. If you ask for the Chef's recommendation, however, you may be kept in suspense until the meal is ready.
Damper fresh out of the oven to dip in butter, garlic, and olive tapenade - and our BYO French red wine
Years of training in France certainly shines through on the plate and treated us to an aromatic journey that had us feeling like we were dining in a humble home in the French countryside. Each mouthful enveloped our taste buds in flavour, rich in garlic - whether that be from one of the exotic entrees or rustic main meals. We were spoilt further by excellent service from the moment we step foot through the door, and a homely atmosphere paired with exquisite decor reminiscent of France in the '60s.
In ordering entrees, we couldn't resist, for one, the Escargots ($19.50). This came in a specialised dish, with a groove for each snail - and they are generous with the number of succulent little molluscs you are given. Be sure to swoosh up the juicy garlic butter in the grooves too, also ideal for dipping damper in, which you may order for starter or side. Along with this, we were sure to stay novel and get the Cervelle a l ail, or brains ($15.50), pan-fried in butter and cooked in a garlic sauce.
Bon a petite indeed; the intricate folds of each of the brains weren't hard to miss upon the plates before us, with a jelly-like interior just beneath the surface. However, they were delicious and had me wanting more with each bite. The crisp skin had a pleasantly salty hint, which reminded us the slightest bit of whitebait, while the flesh was velvety. The sauce finished this off with a vinaigrette tang.
Milkfed Veal cooked w mushrooms, bacon and onions in half glaze.
For the main, I ordered the veal ($22.50) option as this is a meat I eat less commonly. Among us, we also had from the specials board, the most tender beef cheek in a sweet jus, on a bed of mash, and rare venison. Portion sizes were good in that we were satisfied but not overly full from the meat, and had room to savour the potato slices and beans, which brought a real homely feel to the plate.
Despite sitting on a content tummy, we could simply not pass up a divine French dessert. While the likes of the Choc tower and Creme Brulee would have been a bit too much at this point, we satisfied the sweet tooth with the light Crepe Normande ($16.50). A golden brown, slightly burnt caramelised batter was served up with a tangy apple in the middle. The apple brandy soaked through tied this together sensationally.
Needless to say, this classical French restaurant, which you may recognise from Australian tv, is worth putting on your culinary bucket list. Philippe and Pascal, along with the other staff will be sure to give you a warm welcome and treat your palette to an exquisite array of French delicacies, all cooked from the heart. I will also say that romance is most definitely not dead here as Philippe presented the ladies each with a perfect red rose before the end of the dinner.
Honoured to receive a rose from one of Australia's happiest chefs