Basement, 15 Bligh Street Sydney, New South Wales 2000
|Opening hours||Mon-Sat noon-1am|
|Features||Licensed, Accepts bookings, Bar, Groups, Late night, Romance-first date|
|Prices||Expensive (mains over $40)|
|Payments||eftpos, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard|
Dear editors at Fairfax Media, please cover your ears. Everybody else, huddle in close.
So you know that feeling when you've snuck out to watch a movie in the middle of the day and afterwards, when you head outside bewildered and momentarily blinded by the sun, you think you're going to burst into flames? That's what happens when you head upstairs after lunch at Sydney's most coveted Frenchesque restaurant.
It's an optical assault – especially when you've just had such a delicious spell surrounded by wood paneling, Burgundy and candlelight.
It's only recently that this dangerous vortex of underground snacking started offering lunch at all. And while there are many important things to discuss today (really, just hand over your wallet and be done with it – life's easier that way), it's very much worth mentioning the fact that it's incredibly easy to do The Turn here.
And by that, friends, I mean turning from lunch to drinks to dinner without actually leaving your chair. And at only $75 for a set-and-very-happily-forget menu, it's as easy as saying "another pastis fizz, please, and don't spare the fizz". What wonderful, frightening news.
Of course, long lunch on a weekday in these pants-tightening times is probably near illegal in some companies now. If this looks like you, have no fear. We semi-took our time and finished everything in one hour and eighteen minutes. I dare say if you were pressed you could easily fang it in an hour. But. You could just as easily stretch it out to two or three.
And just as you can stretch the bounds of reason anywhere from one hour to dinner time, so too can you stretch the bounds of $75. Flank steak, licked with char around the edges, served deeply rosy with just the right amount of salt and smothered in tarragon butter, can be luxed up with a lobe of foie gras for an extra $40. Oof.
Or you can play it straight and live happily with a side of fries and an acidic, heavily dressed butter lettuce salad. There are few things – in fact nothing, actually – that bring me more pleasure than piling salad greens on a plate covered in the ghosts of dishes past.
There's caviar and blini or oysters to start if you want to flex the company plastic, but they're not necessary, really, unless you're here to show off or lunching with some serious intent.
Do you really need to? Nah, not when there are tiny shrimps chilling on a bed of crushed ice waiting to be dipped into a little cup of hot chicken fat, perfectly clarified.
Or a buttery leek terrine where chef Daniel Pepperell has gently cooked down the green and white parts of a leek then pressed them into a chequerboard configuration. Or half a confit tomato tart, on a fine-yet-firm flaky pastry base, or fried sweetbreads covered in caper confetti.
This is a set menu put together by a team that knows how to lunch. It's not a light meal – fat and salt spend much of the meal in the spotlight – but there are few chefs in town right now who nail it flavour-wise quite the way Pepperell does.
If you're here to impress, seal a deal (any type of deal, really) or merely a legend who lunches, lunch here. And do the turn.
It's near impossible to get a dinner reservation here unless you're a party of six or more who enjoy eating at 9pm or later. Consider lunch – you can reserve a table of any size at the moment, and you'll look so much cooler doing it.
Vibe: You could pretty much just die happy with the best steak frites in town.
Go-to Dish: Fixed price lunch menu, $75.