Sometimes, I manage to simply baffle my colleagues with my luck. It seems like at least once a week I’ll walk in and say something like “I’ve got free tickets tonight to that new movie” or “The guy at the coffee shop gave me a free muffin with my chai latte” or even “I managed to get one of those rarer-than-gold all-day car spots right outside the office building”.
A few weeks ago, I won a dinner for two at Restaurant Atelier in Glebe as I just happened to be their 1500th follower on Twitter – what sheer good luck! When K and I arrived, the waitress took us to the kitchen where we met Chef Darren Templeman and his supporting chefs in person. They were incredibly welcoming, with Chef Templeman inviting us to take a seat and simply let him and his team work their magic, sending dishes out to our table without us needing to look at a menu. All we needed to do was sit back and enjoy the night on the house – what bliss!
We started with fresh baked bread with the delicious creaminess of Pepe Saya butter. I tried Pepe Saya for the first time only just over a year ago, and I’m a convert – it’s a really special treat to have quality bread and butter at a nice restaurant, as opposed to the supermarket bread and butter we have at home.
First course was delicate quail legs cooked in a Japanese karaage style with oyster cream (unfortunately one fell over before I could take my photo!). I always think of quail as chicken’s slightly classier cousin, so you could consider this dish a classier version of fried chicken! This was done beautifully though, with a light batter that didn’t overwhelm the tender, juicy and delicate quail meat that was cooked to perfection.
Second course was one of my favourites on the night, a Kangaroo Island egg that was a lot more complicated than the simple presentation would have suggested. The egg was removed carefully from its shell, combined with rich duck foie gras, sous vide’d until the egg cooked through and put back into the egg shell before being topped with roe, nori, and watercress. There was really just something about the decadent fatty foie gras goodness combined with the burst of flavour from the roe that combined in my mouth to create paradise.
Third course was zucchini flowers with ricotta. I find that most restaurants tend to stuff then fry their zucchini flowers, however Restaurant Atelier opt for a fresher style, somewhat deconstructed on the plate. The ricotta worked really well with the tiny slivers of olive, with the salty flavours of the olive complementing the smooth creaminess of the ricotta.
This was a really unusual dish for me – I’ve never eaten squid that’s been slow cooked on a low temperature for so long that it doesn’t actually turn white. The translucent calamari was outstanding, and had really absorbed a lot of flavour throughout the slow-cooking process. This dish did reignite K’s desire to buy a sous vide machine though, and he ended up supporting a Kickstarter project for a “Sansaire immersion circulator“!
With the fifth course, we start moving into the heavier mains – a tuna dish in this case. While the piece of tuna was lightly grilled, I actually liked how it maintained a level of fresh rawness in the texture of the meat as it worked well with the burst of fatty oils from the fried chicken tail. Simply exquisite.
As our last savoury dish, we finished on wagyu beef cooked with a selection of winter root vegetables. I don’t tend to be a big fan of raw vegetables (cooked! always cooked!), but I actually found that the the thinly sliced cauliflower worked really well with the wagyu beef. While you get that rich marbled smoky melt-in-your-mouth beef, the raw cauliflower adds the texture that wagyu often lacks.
For our first dessert course, we had mitsuba jelly with calamanci sorbet, beetroot reduction and peanut brittle. Where is the photo of this delicious concoction I hear you ask? I can only confess – it was a dessert of such exquisite beauty and subtle sweet flavours that I frankly forgot to take a photo before I demolished the whole dish. Mea culpa, mea culpa.
We finished our dining extravaganza with a ridiculously fluffy chocolate souffle – the type that you crack open to find the finest and most aerated insides. Prompted by our waitress, we dug a well into the chocolate souffle before pouring in the pepper berry milkshake to create a delicious peppery chocolate concoction. that was offset by a simple yoghurt ice-cream.
Clutching our full and aching bellies, we bid farewell to Chef Templeman and his team who had more than surpassed our expectations, and delivered course after course of delicious and innovative modern French food with a slight Japanese twist.
Overall I rate Restaurant Atelier a 9 out of 10. Don’t let the lack of recognition from the Good Food Guide fool you – I rate it on the same level as my experience at Pilu at Freshwater which boasts two hats. The prices are more than reasonable at $100pp for a 10 course dinner on Friday and Saturday nights (add $70 for matching wines).