When I first visited Ananas Bar & Brasserie in 2013, I was skeptical. I’ve usually found my French experiences in Sydney to be heavy and not particularly palatable. It was a difference I was willing to accept, but surely there was something to like?
I was glad to conclude in that post how wrong I was – the lunch I had was exceptional. I even thought to myself “man, this restaurant should be hatted”. Hah, and then that exact thing happened!
Over the next year, I’ve grapevined much about how Ananas’ true specialty are their desserts. That particular opinion was validated with incredible prejudice at their Let’s Do Dessert. After that, I knew I had to take on a complete experience there. So I went for a proper dinner the very next day. It’s time to treat my tastebuds to French done right.
Date Last Visited: 31/10/14
Address: 18 Argyle St The Rocks, NSW 2000
Recommended Dish(es): Bresse chicken, Yve’s Apple, The Black Swan
As far as I remember it, nothing about the dining room has significantly changed since 2013, and that’s fantastic. This place is really all about the ambiance – the romantic (aka “photographer’s bane”) lighting, the tight-knit seating, the French renaissance/art deco-style furnishings. It’s hard to mistake – there’s not another restaurant that’s anything like it.
Date-night? Totally right!
Ananas doesn’t have a degustation available, which does make your choices for a la carte all that much more difficult. With regards to portion sizes – it is recommended to go 3-course. Either that or you could go for two courses and get 3+ desserts…I’m not making this any easier, am I?
It’s almost sin to not get parfait or terrine to start when dining mise en Francais. These intense starters are always a fantastic way to prime our appetite, leaving us wanting more and more. That’s what the duck terrine did to me. Served with my old-hat fave brioche, it’s a definitive sell.
The terrine is well-prepared, with the signature duck musk and moderate amounts of liver flavour coming through. It’s strong, but that’s the idea. It makes for a great start paired with the sweet softness of the brioche, and the cutting acidity of the cherry caramalisation. Sure, it’s not going to be an experience like you would get in Paris, but you it gets close.
Ananas style risotto is where it’s at. Tonight, we were treated to a ham hock & horseradish variant which came in at $33. I say tonight, as the ingredients (and thus price) varies. I have a major qualm in that this is a $33 dish for ingredients that shouldn’t be particularly dear on the price scale.
Putting that aside, it’s a brilliant risotto. It’s cooked nearly al dente, which delivers a good balance between the creamy, fluffy nature and the chewy texture of the rice grains.
It’s good, but perhaps not $33 good for a fist-sized portion. Worth a try? Absolutely.
So what is Bresse chicken? I did some reading, and suffice it to say, Bresse is to chicken like Champagne is to any bubbly. The concept of terroir applies here – chicken that’s raised in a specific area in France with specific rules.
Pretensions aside, you would at least expect the product to taste darn good, given it sells for roughly $40/kg?
You would be so right. This chicken is amazing. I honestly don’t know whether to believe it’s because of its heritage, or it’s just a particularly well-cooked chicken, so I won’t comment too much on that. What is important is the taste & texture – both are superb.
I would guess the chicken has been poached (or is Bresse’s texture really just that good), which results in virtually perfect chicken from a texture standpoint. The skin is left on and slightly charred, classically French. Flavours are also on par, with buttery, onion flavours throughout and the hit of foie gras on the side.
Quite possibly one of the best chicken dishes I’ve had this year. I doubt I’ll forget about it any time soon.
The first test of any lamb shank is to see if the meat can be pried off the bone with minimal effort. Bonus points if you can lift the bone from the meat and it comes clean out.
We didn’t do the latter, but the meat cleaves off the bone like butter. Texture is a win!
Flavour-wise, it was a bit average. I was expecting some really good seasoning going on here, but after having the Bresse chicken, I wasn’t really tasting much in the lamb. A good dish, but not what I would consider a particularly good example of lamb shank. Gowings has possession of that particular ball.
Now for the really exciting part – what Ananas does best. The sweet things in life!
Pastry chef Yves Scherrer really knows his way around his sweets. This also applies to the often tricky (and personally disliked) Granny Smith apple.
If anything was going to change my perceptions of this particularly sour abomination (I’m being harsh aren’t I), it would be Yve’s Apple.
Hands down, the best summer dessert I’ve ever had.
The sorbet – clean and refreshing. The apple shines through but it’s never too acidic. Its natural sweetness balances through very nicely.
You can crack the sorbet through the crunchy dehydrated apple chips layer, mixing it in with the rest of the concoction.
The passionfruit adds a bit of its own zing, while the foam is more fun than functional. The coconut panna cotta at the bottom provides a creamy layer that figuratively cocoons the texture of everything else going on. It’s very fun, very delicious, and works very, very well.
And my goodness, how pretty is it?
One of Ananas’ signature desserts is the trio of Ananas eclairs. There is an argument that these filled choux pastries can get heavy, and I definitely acknowledge that.
But still, The Lady and I shared three, and it wasn’t heavy at all! Surprisingly, the most innocuous difference in these eclairs that makes the extra palatable is the slightly chilled filling. At room temperature or warmer, this would make an eclair quite heavy – too much. When chilled, it’s almost like eating a deliciously chilled creamy centre.
And that’s exactly what each of these eclairs delivers. My personal favourite was the earl grey & rose, which you may remember featured in my post on the Ananas Let’s Do Dessert.
If you’re an eclair fan, you probably didn’t even need to read all that – that these are recommended couldn’t be more obvious enough. Go get ’em!
Three desserts? We had to dear reader, we just had to. You wouldn’t skimp on their signature, surely? The Black Swan is a competition-level dessert which is more than worthy of being on Ananas’ menu. It is quite likely one of the best chocolate desserts I have ever had, and definitely one of the best desserts I have had this year.
The exterior is best described like a crunchy, baked cronut. I say baked, because it’s a fair bit crunchier and flakier than your average cronut and – this is important – is far less oily. Enclosed in this multilayered crunch heaven is a frangelico caramel sauce whose only fault is that it’s quite liquid (it doesn’t ooze out, it flows out). Apart from that – it is perfection. I really don’t have words because I can’t be bothered – if you don’t like this then we’re not going to be friends anyway.
Contrast in temperature and a creamy element is brought in by milk ice cream which of course, was a perfect accompaniment.
I actually can’t think of a way this dessert could be improved, apart from the caramel sauce being a little more viscous.
The king of chocolate tarts has arrived.
Ananas, you are gold – when’s your dessert bar/patisserie arm opening up?
Have you been to any French places as good as Ananas in Sydney? I’m especially interested to hear about awesome desserts you’ve encountered – sound off in the comments below!
- Savouries were mostly on point
- The desserts. Oh my goodness, the desserts.
Not so Awesome:
- Risotto seems pricy for what you get
- Lamb shank wasn’t as flavoursome as I’d have hoped
I have a new scoring system! Read all about it here.
Most important takeaway – three separate scores for food, service and ambiance to give the final score. Also, the scores will not be comparable to anything prior to this post! (11/11/2014)
F7 | S4 | A3