14 Queen Street, Woollahra, NSW

All Details
Classic: Vincent's long, narrow dining room is filled with bentwood chairs and marble-topped tables. Photo: James Brickwood

Terry Durack

I, for one, can see through their clever little scheme. The baked comte custard at Woollahra's new Vincent bistro is a blatant, manipulative attempt to push all of humanity's rich, creamy, cheesy buttons. This tall, free-standing cylinder wobbles like a strumpet on its way to the table, scattered with chives and cloaked in a creamy froth with a smooth, smooth, onion soubise on the side. It has the airy-fairy texture of something between a panna cotta and a souffle and a clean, nutty, almost caramel flavour that fills the mouth like a cloud. It's a cleverly conceived, almost perfect plan. But it's not going to work, because I'm just not that easy.

Turns out, it is going to work, and I am that easy.

One of Sydney's most successful small restaurant partnerships, Traci Trinder, James Hird and Todd Garratt, has kept things firmly in the neighbourhood with their new French baby. Slipped into the side of boutique hotel The Hughenden, it's virtually on the same Woollahra block as their popular Italian Buzo and tapas-and-tipples Wine Library. The long, narrow dining room spills out onto a covered front terrace, monochromatic in grey and white with black cushioned banquettes, bentwood chairs and marble-topped tables.

Go-to dish: Baked comte custard, soubise, onion powder, $19.
World domination awaits: Baked comte custard. Photo: Danielle Smith

To the rear is a handsome temperature-controlled cabinet lined with row upon row of small, round cheeses, made in-house by Garratt and Hird. Head chef Jo Ward also knows the area well, having worked at Claude's before co-founding Bloodwood in Newtown. And the name Vincent? It's a portmanteau word of vin (French for wine) and cent (meaning 100). There are currently 50 wines on the list, so let's call it Vincinquante until the cellar is completed.

The kitchen has shrewdly tapped into the rich heritage of French bistrodom established by the 20-year-old Bistro Moncur down the road. So of course there is steak - heads would roll if there were not. Here, it's grass-fed sirloin ($34) sitting on its own warmer and topped with a beurre Vincent fashioned with herbs and spicy piment d'espelette, with a bowl of excellent, thin, crisp, salty frites. But a quick roll call shows that Vincent has its own personal take on bistroness:

● Potato baked in hay ($5): a whole Dutch cream spud topped with a lush smoked eel butter. Sweet and steamy.

● Pig's head terrine ($17): sounds rough and rustic but comes carpaccio-style, finely sliced and strewn with silhouettes of pickled vegetables. Needs a greater aspic/vinegar ratio to pig ratio.

● Quail en crepinette ($22): a bowling ball of quail meat and pork and chicken liver, flavoured with marc de Bourgogne and teamed with wilted radicchio. Love it.

● Poulet au vin jaune ($29): a winey, forest-floor braise of Holmbrae chicken with morels and mushrooms.

The wine list is all-French and all-in-French, a considered collection of on-trend and off-the-beaten-track, natural and biodynamic labels. There's a love affair with the Loire; seven different gamays (including a lengthy, intense 2011 Sunier Regnie Beaujolais, $81), and an homage to the mountainous Jura.

That cheese cabinet proves irresistible, and while a three-week-old round of goat and Jersey cow milk cheese in the style of St Marcellin is still a work in progress, the whole cheese program is very promising. There's also a golden savarin ($14) of booze-soaked sponge cross-culturally teamed with coconut sorbet and grilled pineapple for those who may have used up their annual cheese allocation with the entree.

Already the scene of birthday lunches and family dinners, Vincent is a breezy, measured take on French dining that builds on our love of bistro bonhomie, good wine and good cheese. As for that baked comte custard, world domination awaits.

Best bit
House-made butter, creme fraiche and cheese
Worst bit
Cafe salt and pepper shakers
Go-to dish
Baked comte custard, soubise, onion powder, $19


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14 Queen Street, Woollahra, NSW

  • 02 8039 1500
  • Cuisine - French
  • Prices - Around $115 for two, plus wine
  • Features - Licensed
  • Chef(s) - Jo Ward
  • Owners - Traci Trinder, James Hird and Todd Garratt
  • Opening Hours - Dinner Tues-Sun 6-10.30pm, Lunch Thurs-Sun noon-3pm
  • Author - Terry Durack
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Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Reader ratings (7)

2 comments so far

  • Ate at Vincent Saturday 12 October. Most iimpressed with all food especially compte custard and wonderful steak
    Excellent wait service, delicious wine

    Date and time
    October 17, 2013, 2:12PM
  • Never thought it'd be so good. It just works. The Hughenden's so old world with the artwork, baby grand and warmth. And Vincent's is old world too in a way. A good way. That traditional French brasserie with the original bricks, pressed metal ceilings, the cheese cabinet. Vincent's make their own cheese, butter, prepare the olives ....sooo good. You can just hang out there scooping out olives in this ceramic green olive jar with a wooden fork with crusty bread and butter with a glass of fine wine. Love it. Only thing missing is expresso. They've got a really lovely unique fragrant coffee, but there's no choice - and when you need a coffee, you need an expresso..

    Date and time
    October 27, 2013, 5:21PM

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