Bistro Ortolan currently with two hats in a modest, yet smartly restored terrace in Leichhardt, has more to lose than most. It must score near perfect food and service points to offset major ambience points conceded to its more opulent CBD rivals. It is also expected to plate with the same detail and nuance consistent with kitchen brigades two to three times its size. The food and overall experience must also deliver a significant wow factor despite those concessions. Fortunately, Chef Paul McGrath and his team are comfortably achieving that at a price that makes fine dining very accessible, and I dare say refreshing.
The rillette of free-range duck, with duck liver and Armagnac parfait, foie gras and freshly toasted brioche is textural perfection, however my dining companion’s plate has two more parfait than mine. I forgive this fundamental plating anomaly as the dish is an unadulterated pleasure. The roasted loin of Melanda pork with Jerusalem artichoke pissaladiere, sauce soubise and pig’s ear is even a greater overall triumph. The harmoniously intense flavours are a testament to Paul McGrath’s restraint and faith in presenting produce without either contrived or overt complication.
The poached tenderloin of milk-fed veal with smoked potato puree, savoy cabbage and pearl onions that follows is a classically prepared dish that truly makes one swoon, whereas sadly the majority of technically correct sous-vide in Sydney consistently disappoints in both seasoning and flavour. Ortolan conversely pays skilled and respectful homage to pre-molecular and trend driven cuisine with the confidence that context and flavour is even more valued and relevant today. The pre-dessert of blood plum sorbet with summer fruit salad is a perfect foil and cleanser to the savoury elements of the degustation, whilst the salted praline millefeuille with hazelnut nougatine, macerated strawberries and praline milkshake proves the perfect sweet counterpoint.
If it seems I am over delivering in my praise, it is only because Bistro Ortolan did so with every facet of the experience it presented to me tonight, so I can only hope other one hat establishments aspire to the same standards and exceed our expectations. The Sydney dining landscape would certainly be more pleasurable and the richer for it.
134 Marion Street, Leichhardt
Tuesday to Saturday 6pm to 10pm
Licensed / BYO (conditions and corkage applies)