When it comes to hotel restaurants, there are some that are successful and others that are wrong. It’s this inconsistency that can prevent locals from making a reservation, with many internal sites relying on hotel nights to fill seats. Here in Adelaide, we also seem to have missed the memo on calls to hotel bars and restaurants after work, something more common across states.
But when the PR machine kicked into gear around the opening of the new Sofitel, and with it the promise of a new “modern French foodie destination,” apprehension quickly gave way to curiosity.
And oh Boy, this is a restaurant worth hyping up. It is said that you take your first bite with your eyes and eat the inside before being shown to your seats of this ninth-floor showcase venue. The design here takes chic to a whole new level, with high-end (and probably very expensive) finishes, fixtures, and amenities. There’s a fairly heavy use of light blues throughout the decor, but it’s far from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Good use of paneled wood, bold artwork, top shelf lighting and gold accents reflect an intricately detailed geometric tiled floor. Garçon Bleu is not just another French restaurant, it’s avant-garde.
And those seats I just mentioned? Not only do they look great, they just might be some of the most comfortable in town. They definitely have some of the best views, if you’re lucky enough to have a window.
Am I springing? Absolutely. In fact, after tonight’s experience, Garçon Bleu might just end up at the top of my list.
Gianni Delogu runs the kitchen: we meet him with his team at work when we are greeted at the exit of the elevators. Introduced in the middle of a double galley style kitchen and in front of a center bar with shelves full of good stuff, we sit at our window nook table and the good stuff just keeps on coming.
First, it’s Smoked Salmon, house-cured and served under a smoke-filled glass cloche that rises off the table when lifted. Drama-verification dinner show. The plate below is simple, but beautiful. Delicately rolled salmon strips rub shoulders with a nest of kohlrabi coated in a little spicy dill sauce. Around the dish, dollops of avocado each support a tiny crispy wafer that adds texture, amplified with that hint of salty flavor thanks to the salmon roe. The bell smoke wasn’t just for drama either: it permeates the entire dish, increasing the flavor complexity of each component.
And then, as if elementary, a light and airy cheese soufflé lands next. It’s quite delicious. Delicate texture but robust taste. It is accompanied by a flavored velvety mushroom sauce intertwined with bechamel fillets. It is served as a pre-made dome (or is it twice cooked?) on a plate. I had hoped for something to come out of his ramekin, but this technical oversight is forgiven, as forks of creamy cheese soufflé, tossed with sauce and bechamel, hit the spot. The umami-packed baby shimeji mushrooms have been given a light pickle treatment that adds a bit of acid to this otherwise – quintessentially French and absolutely appropriate – heavy and buttery dish.
On main course and we are pleasantly surprised by the barramundi, with thin fillets that may have been poached or grilled before searing and just waiting to fall apart. The dish sings with punches of savory flavor from slivers of Goolwa pee and small capers, and tiny cucumber balls that also provide freshness. A silky fennel mash and browned butter add depth and richness, and the successful delivery of a French-style fish dish is up a few notches.
Venison, listed as wild, is exactly that. It’s wrapped in a silver beet leaf and served alongside an arrangement of pumpkins stacked three ways: that is, layered slices sandwiched in a scrumptious soup mash, then topped with toasted pumpkin seeds. . Slicing the bundle of venison reveals a tender, well-done tenderloin, soaking up a juice that has a delicious earthy, woody flavor that I can’t quite identify, but the menu reveals it to be juniper , the main ingredient used to make gin. It’s no wonder this regular martini drinker is addicted.
And just when we’re done complimenting the menu so far, dessert arrives. I’m usually pretty decisive, but this list baffles me with too many tempting options. And so naturally, we order three (between two).
Tarte tatin is still a reference when it comes to eating everywhere in France and, damn it, is the version of Boy good. It starts with a grilled base of pressed, puff pastry (think mille-feuille) that is topped with a floret-style arrangement of poached and caramelized apple. On top is a sticky caramel that collects in the center of this utterly delicious heap, with a crunch provided by little domes of puff pastry shaped to look like macaroons. Delicious.
Desserts number two and three are tied, the first of which is a fondant that will make orange choco fans salivate and the second, called Vacherin (which I thought might be French for ‘yum’ but is more like French for pavlova) is perfect for lovers of melon, meringue or both.
In the areas of food, style, theater and service, Garçon Bleu is opulence delivered sensibly. It’s a new benchmark for dining in Adelaide and it’s all in a hotel.
The Sofitel, 108 Currie Street, Adelaide
(08) 8432 1999
Wednesday – Friday 12:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Wednesday – Sunday 5:30-9:30
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