13 Hayes Street Neutral Bay, NSW 2089
|Opening hours||Lunch, Tue-Sat, noon-3pm; dinner, Mon-Sat, from 5.30pm.|
|Features||BYO, Licensed, Accepts bookings|
|Prices||Expensive (mains over $40)|
|Phone||02 9908 1133|
It's snags at 50 paces at Neutral Bay's newest French restaurant, Hayes St Wharf Bistro. But they're not the kind of sausages you'd request tomato sauce for, or chuck in a bun.
On one side of our table is the pork-filled Toulouse sausage, sliced and served with a mild parsley puree and earthy lentils. It's made by Andrews Meats, using the restaurant's own recipe. Pork fans will love it.
On the other side is the seafood boudin blanc, a mix of scallop, crab and snapper forming a white sausage. It is light and delicate, with scallop the dominant flavour. Served with a strong and deliciously salty bisque, eat them together and kapow, the tastebuds are tingling.
My money's on the elegant boudin blanc but my dining companion disagrees, going the meat-lover's route. They're both great; it's just a matter of taste. And entrees do extend beyond sausages, such as the house-cured salmon or a savoury tarte tatin.
Husband-and-wife team Gavin and Natasha Tuckwell opened Hayes St Wharf Bistro in late February, buying the existing Restaurant Thirteen and relaunching it as a slightly more casual French bistro. Gavin is a classically trained chef who has worked at the Bathers' Pavilion and La Grillade, so this cuisine is close to his heart.
Fellow ex-Bathers' chef Nu Suandokmai joined the team recently, adding extra firepower in the kitchen.
At night, the chocolate brown walls exude warmth, creating a cosy space. The iron and glass light fittings add a touch of formality, but overall the room feels quite lived in. This makes sense when Gavin explains that they left the decor largely intact, only adding some paintings and mirrors and replacing the large front window with bifold glass. The comfort of the decor is matched by the service, which is casual but attentive and deftly keeps up with the pace of a busy Saturday night.
Main course is a sausage-free zone. The portion sizes aren't overly big across all courses though, so even a rich dish such as the lamb rack won't push the stomach over the edge. Topped with a light herb crust, it's served on a bed of lentils with a mild carrot puree. Its accompaniment - more meat! - of a braised lamb shank, meltingly tender with a hint of rosemary, comes in a roasted potato ''cup''.
Fish of the day is crispy-skinned barramundi with asparagus and a refreshing salad of shaved fennel, roasted tomatoes, orange slices and watercress. It's a lovely, light dish and leaves plenty of room for dessert.
The apple tarte tatin fits the bill on a rainy autumn night. It may sit politely on the plate, but is rich and sweet with a scoop of cinnamon ice-cream on top. Strawberries and cream is lighter, and essentially a deconstructed pavlova topped with pink fairy floss.
Wine includes local and international drops, some from France. There's a good number by the glass and the lovely Castle Rock Estate muscat finishes the evening with style. And there's also Campos coffee for the designated driver.
Gavin says the aim is to be the kind of restaurant local residents describe as a ''neighbourhood gem''. Given there's not a spare seat in the house on a Saturday night two months after opening, word seems to have spread fast.
Fine dining meets casual bistro with a French-influenced menu.
Scallop and crab boudin blanc, Toulouse sausage, fish of the day, lamb rack, apple tarte tatin, strawberries and cream.
4 (out of 5 stars)