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Published October 20th 2013
Beyond the baguette, the snails, and Champs-Élysées
When I think French, I think Eiffel Tower, snails, and Joe Dassin's 1969 ballad 'Aux Champs Elysées', dedicated to the famous Champs Elysées avenue in Paris (YouTube it, it's catchy).
But beyond Paris lies many different cuisines of regional France. Food in regional France, influenced by produce readily available in that region, is much more hearty and wholesome.
Mrs Top French Regional Restaurant unashamedly acquaints you with the rich bourgeois cuisine of the French countryside right in the heart of Sydney, a delightful way to spend a Saturday evening dinner with good friends.
My benchmark for good French food is to trust the opinion of my frankly spoken French friend, Stéphanie. Trust me, if Stéphanie says the French food or wine is good, it is good. We had the 5 course degustation.
The first course served was Country style duck liver pâté (Pâté de canard), a specialty found in South-West France. The liver pâté was served in a small ceramic dish, topped with yellow duck fat, with homemade pickles and bread. You have to break through the duck fat to scoop out the pâté spread. Given the quantity of the liver pâté, the dish was a little imbalanced: a lot of pâté with only a small slice of bread, but the waitstaff promptly served additional baguette slices to enable us to continue to dig into the pâté. The pâté had a combined rich, buttery and soft flavour. Although I don't regularly eat liver pâté, I thought it was quite good.
The second dish was a tasty French onion soup, a classic broth of caramelised onions, toasted bread and cheese, followed by the berry-cointreau sorbet (Sorbet à la fraise) to cleanse the palate before the mains.
Pâté de canard; French onion soup; Sorbet à la fraise
For the mains, I chose the traditional French chicken dish ladened in red wine (Coq a vin), a well known dish in Burgundy. It was a rich red stewy coloured dish with wonderful tender chicken pieces. My dining companions chose the slowly cooked duck in goose fat, Grand Marnier with citrus sauce (Confit de canard à l'orange) and the beef fillet and mashed potatoes with truffle oil (Filet 'Café de Paris'), which were equally a rave.
Coq a vin; Confit de canard à l'orange; Filet "Café de Paris"
For dessert, we had the 'dark Lindt' chocolate mousse with raspberry coulis (Mousse au chocolat). I say 'dark Lindt' as the mousse wasn't really that dark. It was more like Cadbury milk chocolate but nevertheless, delicious, delicate and silky smooth.
We hear throughout the night from our French accented, spiffingly dressed waiter, "I do that for you". That pretty much sums up the service.
You can sit at Mrs Top's elegant wine and cocktail bar, whilst waiting for your dining companions to arrive. Our table for 4 was situated in a comfortable dimly lit room, which probably was once a living room of the Potts Point terrace, with a beautiful oil painting as a centrepiece. With the hearty nature of the good French regional food, I probably would have preferred a cottage setting that resembled a farmhouse, laden with French country garden flowers, but my idealistic notion of romanticism is starting to kick in.
The 5 course degustation was $69 per person (although look out for Groupon vouchers). Otherwise the entrees are about $15 to $20 per dish; mains range from $22 to $30; and desserts range from $9 to $12.
It's not too difficult to get to Mrs Top. About 5 minutes walk from Kings Cross station. On a Saturday night, it's best to get there by train, rather than drive as parking can be a nightmare. The entrance to the restaurant is actually on the side, and not through the front gate, which was locked with a bicycle chain.
This is a good restaurant to try – wholesome hearty French regional food with good portions, a comfortable elegant establishment and excellent friendly service. Bon appétit!