L’etoile, Paddington

4 March 2010
by Phuoc

I have mixed emotions about Valentine’s Day. Sure, it’s another Hallmark holiday and the only time during the year when the price of roses is jacked up but a girl sometimes can’t help being a little excited about the day. What will he do or buy for me this year? But ever since I started working in the Hospitality industry, this day means only one thing… Working, and surrounding myself with lovebirds left, right and centre.

This year was no different. Usually what Ant and I do to celebrate is go out for dinner the night before or after. This year he decided to take me to some secret location for dinner. I must admit, I can be very sneaky with planning surprises but sometimes I give bits of it away because I get so excited and can’t contain myself. However, the other way around is different. When I know I’m going to get a surprise I often bug the person about it constantly instead of being patient (which was supposed to be my New Year’s Resolution).

I had a sneaky suspicion that we might go here (sorry Ant) but on the other hand knew I could be wrong because Ant is the self-proclaimed King of Shiftiness. As we were driving towards the area my suspicions were confirmed as there was no way he would book something else out here when I have always wanted to dine at Manu Feildel’s restaurant. We walk towards the restaurant and I’m all giddy inside and my first thought was “I hope I get to see Manu today” followed by “Thank you for taking me here!” (good to see my priorities are right)

The restaurant is welcoming; it is as though you are stepping into someone’s home. We were seated in the courtyard outside; which is spacious and the setting is very casual (for a one hatted restaurant). One thing we notice is that the wait staff here are all have a French accent; that’s a good sign, but the waitress that we had was so clueless she convinced us that she was new. When asked if they have any French beers she replies with “Heineken is French…” which resulted in me and Ant exchanging looks at one another. I should have said to her that Heineken is actually a Dutch beer.

L'etoile Margarita ($17)

I ordered the L’etoile margarita (a twist on the classic margarita by adding pear puree and honey) which was well-balanced between sweet and sour and packed quite a punch from the tequila (I haven’t had tequila in a long time as it brings horrid memories) and of course it had the salt rim which I couldn’t help licking off. I mean, what’s a margarita without the salt rim? Although it was nice, I don’t think it did any good for my sore throat (which seemed to worsen throughout the night). We were given some bread and butter to start off with only to wonder if we were going to get charged for it because we saw it on the menu but didn’t order it; luckily we didn’t though.

Mackerel; Scallop sausage ($18 each)

Then it was on to our entrees, Ant ordered the silky sausage of scallops with witted spinach and crustacean bisque (the dish Manu prepared for the first Masterchef celebrity challenge) whilst I had the Escabeche of mackerel with kipfler potato and a light saffron dressing. The scallop sausage was velvety and the subtle taste of scallop was there. The one word I would use to describe this dish is smooth. Everything complimented each other and there weren’t any dominant flavours.

The mackerel was cooked to perfection; the flesh was dense but moist at the same time. However, I found the saffron dressing to be very overpowering in vinegar; it even got to the point where I made a sour face when I was eating it. When I asked the newbie waitress what escabeche is she said “It’s… umm.. mackerel.. It’s umm.. very nice. I haven’t had it but it’s nice. Everything is nice” Ok then.. After consulting my friend, I have learnt that escabeche is a method of cooking fish in an acidic marinade. If I knew that before I probably would not have ordered this dish. I wish there was more potato to reduce the tangy impact of the dressing. Overall it was a nice dish; the dressing just needs to tone down on the vinegar a bit.

Lamb saddle; Kingfish ($32 each)

For mains, Ant ordered the pan-roasted fillet of kingfish served with a warm salad of white bean and truffle vinaigrette and I ordered the slow-roasted lamb saddle served with ratatouille and chickpea panisse. Now this is the first time I had lamb saddle. I found myself chewing on the pieces for quite a long time until I gave up and only ate the meat; which was tender and juicy. I prefer my veggies cooked until they are soft and I imagined the ratatouille to be like that but it wasn’t, they were still firm. When I asked the newbie waitress what the third component on my dish was she didn’t know so she chased up her fellow colleague and he explained to me that it was chickpea puree shaped into fingers and lightly pan fried. It was nice considering I’m not a massive fan of chickpea (although I like hummus).

Finally Ant found a good fish dish that he really enjoyed! I had one bite of his and wanted more. The fish was cooked perfectly with a crispy skin, the white beans were nice (I don’t really like legumes as well) and the truffle vinaigrette… Well it was fantastic! It tied everything together, even though it says vinaigrette I wasn’t tangy at all, it was indeed very earthy. YUM!

Pre-dessert: Watermelon & champagne granita; Peach Melba; Chocolate mousse($15 each)

We were given complimentary watermelon and champagne granita for pre-dessert. For something to simply begin as water, sugar, watermelon and champagne, it was a refreshing way to end our meal and perfect for a warm summer evening; I wanted more! For desserts, I ordered the Peche Melba (poached fresh peaches with vanilla bean ice cream and raspberry coulis) whilst Ant decided to go for the dark chocolate mousse with hazelnut praline. Both desserts were wonderful. The chocolate mousse was silky smooth with tiny bits of crunchy hazelnut praline scattered throughout and the peach melba was wonderfully creamy with an added tang from the coulis and a slight crunch from the roastedflaked almonds. I wish I tried out the crème brulee though because I’ve never had a fantastic crème brulee in Sydney; Paris remains to be the only place that I does it well (you’d hope so anyway).

And did I get to see Manu? Unfortunately no… My friend went to dine here the weekend before for Valentine’s Day and she said that she got to meet him! OMG, I was so jealous!

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  1. betty

    how sweet of your boy to organise a secret v day dinner :O)

    the desserts look yummy – i havent gone out to dinner and dessert in a while…… hopefully lazaar has desserts for us tonight?? 😛

  2. Phuoc

    Yeah it was sweet indeed.. I just had a quick look on their website and they have desserts! YAY! Can’t wait!

  3. Belle@OohLook

    Haha, I wonder how many ladies want to eat at l’Etoile in order to see Manu *waves hand*. Sounds like you had a lovely night; the food there certainly looks wonderful.

  4. Phuoc

    It’s the sexy French accent Belle! I would like to go back again to have another go at possibly seeing him.. Whoops, I meant trying out more food.. 😛

  5. Anh

    how sweeet! (I don’t celebrate Valentine this year. It’s the same day as CNY so I cooked a lot for my family. I need to ask the Husband to make up soon :P)

  6. Larina

    Phuoc next time you plan on going here to stalk Manu, invite me along please 😀 haha

  7. Yen@Foodforfour

    I love his sexy french accent . Now I know why I’m hooked on my kitchen rules. Too bad you didn’t see Manu. The food looks great.

  8. Julia @ Mélanger

    What a lovely experience for Valentine’s day. I am hoping to get to Sydney later this year and want to try L’etoile myself. I was interested in how large the main meals looked. Was expecting something more ‘delicate’. The little restaurant looks adorable.

  9. Phuoc

    Anh: You should definately have your husband make up for it since you did have to cook for him and your family for CNY. Let me know how it goes 😉

    Larina: LOL Did you really have to use the word “stalk”..? C’mon.. It’s nothing like that.. 😛 I’ll call you for sure!

    Yen: Seems like everyone loves him for the sexy accent. I must admit I haven’t been able to watch it for about 2 weeks now but I promise to catch up on it online.. How’s the show going though?

    Julia: Hi, thanks for dropping by. I’m the same, you can never be so sure of how big the portions are with hatted restaurants. However, I was quite content afterwards. I hope you are able to dine here as I know you will enjoy it.

  10. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella

    Haha yes everyone wants to meet Manu! Great choice for Valentines Day, I’ve always heard how romantic it is! 🙂

  11. chocolatesuze

    aw your boy is so sweet to organise a secret dinner for you! and the chocolate mousse sounds fantastic!

  12. Phuoc

    Lorraine: Who’s your celebrity chef crush? Surely you must have one.. 🙂

    Suze: Yes it was sweet. Would definately be back!

  13. joey@FoodiePop

    The food looks wonderful!

  14. rarrarla

    Hello from Roma!
    We’ve only been here 2 days but already have stories to tell you !! LOL

    Anyways, we both drooled over the watermelon granita =D

    Keep up with your eating adventures!!

  15. Phuoc

    Joey: Thanks! You should definately try it out one day 🙂

    Amy (and Jenny): Ciao Belle! Come siete? 🙂
    I can’t wait to hear about those stories! Eat plenty.

  16. Trissa

    I have been meaning to go to this restaurant for ages – everyone has told me about the lovely scallop boudin – I can’t wait to try it.

  17. foodwink

    How romantic! The food looks great and I’ve had fun reading about the clueless waitress 🙂 Would love to try L’etoile one day!

  18. Phuoc

    Trissa: You should definately make your way over. For a 1 hatted restaurant, it’s decently priced.

    Foodwink: Yeah that waitress had no idea of what she was doing at all; besides looking pretty..

  19. miss.yit

    ohhh manu!! how i love thee.

  20. Phuoc

    I love thee too..

  21. Leona

    So sweet of the boy for organising dinner you two are just too cute! I never really celebrate valentines day cos the boys bday is the day after. =| such a bad gf i am LOL!

    I’ve always wanted go here its been on my list for a while. As for manu! boy have i heard some stories about him hehe love the photos!!! and thanx for the award you legend! ^_^

  22. Phuoc

    Well that’s sometimes good because you can just combine the two events and spoil him good for that day. I mean, we do that too.. Our anno is around Xmas so we just get one gift; so much easier that way..

    What stories have you heard..? You gotta tell me! 🙂

  23. Angie

    I know exactly what you mean about Valentine’s Day! My bf worked as a waiter and I was a florist… we never got to really celebrate Valentine’s and even though both of us are both out of the two industries now it’s not a big thing to us. We’d rather celebrate before or after rather than when everyone else is doing it. By the way, roses seem expensive on this day but the growers inflate the price hence florists having to mark up their prices accordingly and then you have all the extra costs such as extra staff, couriers, overtime etc etc I’m sure it’s probably about the same in the hospitality industry. And I’m exactly the same when it comes to suprises! Though I did manage to suprise the bf with half his Christmas presents (the one he knew about was a request from him). I almost spoiled my suprise Christmas present too because I kept pestering him about it.

  24. Phuoc

    You can’t help but get too excited hey? It’s like “I’ve planned/bought these fantastic things for you but I want to share it with you now…” LOL Yeah I managed to surprise Ant last year for his birthday; he thought I was just going to take him out for a quiet dinner but when we arrived at the location, about a dozen of his friends just happened to be there as well! Best surprise ever!

    It’s often better to not celebrate on the day because it’s just forced and the prices are jacked up for everything and you would have to go with the VDay special set menus rather than choosing a la carte. I remember working last year at a badly runned restaurant; all the food was late, there were complaints all over the place and some people even walked out (I wouldn’t blame them). Why did this happen? Well there was only one head chef in the kitchen plus a first year apprentice. Nightmare shift! So of course the floor staff coped it.

  25. Angie

    Ahuh! I bought my bf a suprise present which arrived in the post a couple of days ago… just dying to tell him all about it! It’s great when you do pull off a suprise, it’s a priceless moment =) Glad to hear you were able to pull off a suprise birthday dinner.

    I think it was last year that we actually went out on Valentine’s Day for dinner (second time out of 10), I had absolutely no idea and loved being suprised. He took me to Times On The Park, great food though it seemed as if it was first day on the job for the waitstaff. It’s all so overated really isn’t it?

  26. Phuoc

    Just be patient.. You know it would be awesome when you pull it off. I like surprises but unfortunately for me I plan my birthdays so there’s no way of being surprised.

    I haven’t been to Times on the Park but I did apply for a job there once..

  27. Simon Food Favourites

    it’s great to read this review because thinking about going. bumped into manu last week outside the restaurant and seemed like a nice guy. have been watching My Kitchen Rules so would be good to try his restaurant too. thanks for sharing 🙂

  28. Phuoc

    OMG! You bumped into him!? I’m so jealous! Although.. I did bump into him last year at the Good Food and Wine Show. I wanted to talk to him but these other ladies were hogging all the time so I managed to grab a photo with him.. I hope the guys from Melb win. Also, I hope you get to dine here one day 🙂

  29. Jeff

    it’s great to read this review because thinking about going. bumped into manu last week outside the restaurant and seemed like a nice guy. have been watching My Kitchen Rules so would be good to try his restaurant too. thanks for sharing 🙂

  30. Phuoc

    Hi Jeff! Thanks for popping by. I’d like to go back to try some more of his food as he just released a new winter menu and I want to try his creme brulee. But yeah, Manu does seem to be a real friendly guy! I hope you enjoy your meal at L’etoile 🙂

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