Well, maybe just a little. I had merely pointed out to the maitre'd that it was different from the one my grandmother had made us as children. Grandma made hers with powdered milk.
It's cream all the way at P'tite Ardoise, and with the family originating from Normandy in France, the service as well as the food is as authentic and rich as you can get. Very rich, with the dessert in question either served as a single portion ($12) or for two ($19). It came with a rich, crunchy topping like a brulee, two Eiffel Tower shaped shortbreads and two small bowls of vanilla icecream. It was warming and filling.
There are two menus available – the classic menu which is available all the time, and where you will find timeless tastes such as escargot, garlic prawns, duck in orange sauce and duck liver pate.
The daily menu, clearly, changes daily and when we visited had options such as baked goats cheese on brioche ($19), crepe forestiere ($30) which was made with mushrooms and a cream sauce, and grilled lamb loin with Parisienne gnocchi ($39).
With the average main hovering around the $40 mark, this is probably not your local everyday bistro. But the simple décor is unpretentious and intimate, and so far from the posh manifestations of other establishments in this price bracket, it quite likely could be your local.
The bread basket (the complimentary one) offered goodies like rosemary and olive rolls and mini baguettes, and came with olive oil, butter and tapenade to accompany it. The bread is top shelf and could be a beautiful meal on its own, but I was in a French bistro and I was determined to try everything.
The escargot a ma facon (snails cooked the chef's own way) were three pots of creamy, tomatoey sauce topped with golden grilled rounds of bread ($19). Each pot had at least three or four snails, which to the uninitiated look and feel a lot like mushrooms. I found it a sweet and tempting dish – the sauce was delicious, the snails adding more texture than flavour.
My husband had the terrine from the Menu de Jour ($20)– made with venison, pork belly, hazelnut and quince and served with cornichons (mini gherkins) and jelly. It was rich and meaty and very firm.
He also chose the venison from the mains menu ($43), which had two different preparations – braised shoulder and a grilled fillet. It was served with mash, celeriac puree, and a baked pear. Atop sat two prawns. It looked eclectic and tasted delicious.
For mains I chose the twice cooked duck leg, with vegetable tian (thinly sliced layers of potato and sweet potato baked in cream) and an orange sauce ($35). Worlds away from the gelatinous orange sauces you might remember from the 1980s, this sauce was dark and rich like a gravy, with a subtle citrus flavour that perfectly balanced the rich meat. I feel like I am using the word 'rich' a lot, but it is warranted. The duck leg was large and had both moist smooth meat and the crunchy edges that are full of flavour.
We were given a pot of vegetables to share – the crisp greens necessary to balance all the meat on our plates.
Service was professional and friendly – quick to share a joke, and enquire why I was taking so many photographs. Was I going to try and recreate the rice pudding from photos alone?
They were also very patient when we were twenty minutes late – courtesy of Google maps and the fact that Beaufort Street has a few '283s' along it. Just for the record – this is the 283 in Highgate, just across from the Brisbane Hotel.
Don't bother trying to find out more information online – there is no website, no email and the Facebook page is not regularly updated. If you want to make a booking, you can only call between 2pm and 6pm Tuesday to Saturday. Oh, they don't have voicemail either.
If that doesn't daunt you, then make the effort to visit P'tite Ardoise and bon appetite!
How strange that I should read this review today when only today I passed by this restaurant and remembered that it was the location of a German restaurant called Alt Heidelberg where I had enjoyed a lovely German meal.