Owner and Chef Darren Templeman, formerly a sous chef under internationally acclaimed Bruno Loubet at the Michelin recognised Odeon and Chelsea Hotel, has worked extensively in senior positions throughout some of the major kitchens in the UK. This brought a serious pedigree when he opened Restaurant Atelier in 2003. Originally in Newtown, it relocated to a charming sandstone cottage in Glebe in 2005, following its early recognition by The SMH Good Food Guide.
The modern French-inspired menu, with subtle Asian leanings represents exceptional value (especially mid-week) as a starter, main & dessert option for $68pp, or as a seven course degustation for $85pp ($140pp with matching wines). Two rooms with plush red walls (and lips that provocatively set off the main room) are bordered evenly with stylish black banquettes assisting with the decibels remaining on the lighter side even at tilt. Bernadette Templeman works the floor with a combination of knowledge, grace and humour, and presents wine from a small, diverse and incredibly well priced list. A small collection of boutique sake and whiskey remains a work in progress, with specialised dinners showcasing the intriguing food matching possibilities.
Warmed Brasserie sourdough ($5), with Pepe Saya’s superb artisan butter or cracking house-made olive tapenade and EVOO, is a nice choice either way, although I would suggest both. The lightly seared Paspaley Pearl meat (degustation only), topped with Per Se caviar and garnished with fennel pollen and lightly spiced espelette pepper chickpea soup, displays exquisite balance. The astonishingly fresh chickpeas, sourced directly from an organic farm in Camden, deserve equal billing on this occasion, proving even the most humble ingredient can elevate a dish if it is presented fresh and without complication.
Most successful dishes are the sum of their various parts, but the Kingfish ceviche ($24), is an exception to that rule. The basil gel is simply cracking, as is the greek feta version, but together with punchy flavour-packed heirloom cherry tomatoes with matching sorbet that has just the right amount of sweetness, this dish rocks on all levels! The twice cooked parmesan soufflé ($24), with chives and blanched fennel, has a lovely crust and airy interior, with enough palate weight to hold up against the crab bisque gel and black olives, without overriding the subtlety and sweetness of the snow crab. Piquillio peppers provide a thoughtful background heat note, with olive oil and lemon juice both freshening things up, and adding some piquancy.
Rabbit ($24), unfortunately much maligned in my opinion, is fully celebrated here with delicately smoked loin, sumptuous rillette, and a particularly morish confit belly from the Macleay Valley. Two perfect seared scallops crash the party with a delightful pea cream, stacks of pickled heirloom carrots, and garnished with amaranth leaves. This is a vibrant and texturally complex dish that is surely a persuasive argument to woo back diners with any long held and misplaced “bunny” apprehensions.
The fillet of John Dory ($36), poached for seventeen minutes, is a textural masterpiece. Lightly garnished with béarnaise, and served with roasted salsify and white onion soubise, it is flawless in every respect. A single tempura sesame leaf and meaty king brown mushroom, stand as exclamation marks to both the skill and execution on display. Spectacular milk-fed Cootamundra spring lamb (36pp), served on a board with pairs of leg, loin and shoulder, roasted carrot and rosemary, baby leek, and wilted golden beet tops saves me from ‘shamelessly running with the foxes’! The jus simply reduced from the roasting juices, sensibly not overworked, is perfect in keeping with the produce driven nature of the dish.
A very popular cut in Japan, the choice rump cap ($36/MS7), done sous-vide for one and a half hours at fifty six degrees and flashed in a little butter, is as good an argument for that technique I have yet tasted. It is so tender that the onion flower beignet provides some much needed crunch against the shitakes, mustard custard, spinach puree, black bean garlic and ginger sauce. The dish is a very playful and classy take on that rather obvious “westernised” dish, transcending an easier “dude-food” interpretation for an outcome with a little more substance.
The simplicity of assorted fresh summer berries ($15), served with incomparable Pepe Saya mascarpone and a caramel ice cream on caramelised muesli, is absolute proof that less is more. Vibrant colours with the uncomplicated delivery of stunning produce are a reflection of the maturity at play throughout the entire menu. Who can say no to a coconut and chocolate ganache soufflé ($15) that comes with a maraschino milkshake with an edible chocolate straw? Certainly not me, but the cherry sorbet may have been a fraction sharp in the overall context, with the texture being nonetheless faultless.
Restaurant Atelier, consistently delivering high quality dining just on the fringe of the CBD, has always exceeded such stereotypical associations. An intense farm to plate push supplemented by a strong commitment to foraging has added another dimension to the sound techniques underpinning the food. Chef Darren Templeman’s previous Michelin experience, intensively applied within a small and settled brigade, combines those standards with very tight pricing so that his food is within the reach of all diners. A restaurant is ultimately judged by how well it balances the realisation of its aspirations against the perception and expectations of the diners it serves. The full and vibrant room tonight is really the best recommendation of all. Being independently run by a talented and hardworking couple is a bonus.
22 Glebe Point Road, Glebe
Tue to Sat from 6pm
Licensed / BYO Tue-Fri only (corkage $15)