My most memorable meal of 2010: Restaurant Arras

There are many reasons why a meal can be memorable – both good and bad – be it due to the food, the surrounds, the service, the company, the conversation, the occasion, or a combination of all of these things and more. Our meal at Restaurant Arras with the usual suspects was memorable because it came a mere few weeks after my wedding to Monsieur Poisson and it had felt like forever since we’d had the time to partake in a social outing with friends. It was also my first degustation (yes, that cherry took some time to pop), lasted close to 5 hours, and did not disappoint with its delicious and beautifully presented food with their whimsical names. Oh, and then there’s their infamous petits fours tray…

We step into the restaurant just after 7pm, having all found parking close by outside. We are introduced to a bowl of bread crisps, house made and of various flavours including fennel seed, poppy seed and caraway seed, sitting in a rubble of crushed peanut candy at the bottom of the bowl. The peanut candy is slightly salted and has Kiki ruminating about its similarities to Crunchy Nut Cornflakes.

We all decide on having the degustation and ordering duties for a bottle of red wine are passed over to Dr King as per usual. Warm bread rolls are served – white sourdough for Monsieur Poisson and a hedgehog-shaped garlic roll for myself. The garlic roll is fragrant but mellow in flavour and perfect with the oh-so-smooth butter.

We are next presented with an amuse bouche of deconstructed carrot cake. There is a salty-sweet carrot purée, cubes of sweet carrot cake and what we think are thin shavings of pickled radish and pickled carrot. Decorated with baby cress, the flavours and textures have me a little confused because I keep wanting to think of it as a sweet dish. It does, however, lead perfectly into the first degustation course.

‘The Raw and the Cooked’ is a pretty palette of garden colours arranged on a glass platter. Dollops of carrot purée from the amuse bouche feature alongside a crunchy, paper-thin, dried beetroot slice centrepiece as well as pickled vegetables and edible flowers. It is delightfully refreshing.

‘Smoked, roast and dressed’ has a flaky sardine fillet resting against a well-seared scallop sitting atop what we think are squiggles of celeriac purée. The disc of fennel balanced on top like a hat, as well as the tiny balls of cucumber and peanuts offer crunchy contrast.

My favourite dish of the evening is the ‘Quinoa Kedgeree’ which, traditionally made with rice, is subtly spiced and chewy-ish through its use of quinoa instead. Luxuriously smooth and smokily fragrant eel is used in place of the usual smoked fish, with soft-centred quail eggs finishing off the dish.

‘Birds of a Feather’ is a three-layered chicken terrine with a swipe of sweet pumpkin purée which reminds us of gingerbread through its notes of spice. A few mead-soaked raisins are scattered about and, although I’m not a fan of raisins generally, these are definitely not squishy in texture and offer complementary flavours when each component of the dish is eaten in conjunction with the others.

Blushing pink duck breasts are the focus of ‘St. Clements Duck’ with foie gras soufflé to one side in the guise of a fish finger. Carrot mash flanks the other side as well as some unidentified white vegetable dice. A stripe of duck jus forms the bottom border.

The final main dish is ‘Slow Cooked Lamb, Lavender and Honey Sweetbreads’. The lamb is soft and tender with a subtly lavender infused sauce drizzled around the plate. With a small mound of spinach to one corner, what surprisingly captures me are the honeyed and deep-fried sweetbreads. A conversation ensues about sweetbreads and I recall where I first most unexpectedly heard of them – in the movie ‘Red Dragon’ when Hannibal Lecter pulls out a copy of Larousse Gastronomique from his bookshelf.

By dessert time our stomachs are heaving from the main courses, but the pre-dessert has me cooing in delight. It is a donut with a raspberry centre, two yin-yang swirls of rich chocolate ganache, raspberry purée and what we think is a white chocolate ice-cream. It is the most generous pre-dessert I’ve had to date.

And then comes the playful ‘An Adolescent Breakfast’. I am sad to see that atop the peanutty cereal crumbs that the Chantilly cream is no longer presented in a cute toothpaste tube. Our waiter tells us that they had run out and were awaiting to be supplied more at the time. The chocolate caramel slice has a centre much like an Aero bar and the glass holds a quenelle of milk sorbet sitting on cereal crumbs. The dessert is light and not cloying in any way.

The meal ends on a high note with coffee and tea being accompanied by a petits fours tray where diners are allowed to choose as many or few as their hearts desire. The petits fours tray is impressive with its variety and is a veritable lolly shop on a large slate slab. Our waiter has the unenviable job of knowing what each and every sweet is and is able to repeat them at random when we are overwhelmed with choice. We are afforded a square slate tile each to house our selection until I proclaim I want “one of each, please” bar two from the blackberry jelly, nut truffle, flumph (?), peanut brittle, chocolate truffles, fudge, coconut ice, honeycomb, peach jelly, jam sandwich biscuit… *inhale*… and others on offer. It is somewhat embarrassing when I hear our waiter telling another staff member, "We'll need another tile here". However I do proudly eat most of the ones I've horded, except for the last few which I am only capable of nibbling on halves. My only advice is to allow room for these small beauties and to eat the honeycomb first, otherwise it will soften and become sticky from moisture.

A truly wonderful meal which set the bar high for future degustations and, although the menu will sure to have changed, it is a meal we speak of fondly which spurs the urge to return for more.

24 Hickson Rd, Walsh Bay NSW
Tel: (02) 9252 6285

*NOTE*: Restaurant Arras has closed as of mid-2011, but will be reopening at Clarence St in September/October 2011.

Opening Hours:  Sun & Mon  CLOSED
                        Tues-Thurs  6pm-10pm (dinner only)
                        Fri  12pm-2:30pm (lunch)
                              6pm-10pm (dinner)
Sat  6pm-10pm (dinner only)

Restaurant Arras on Urbanspoon

happy eating!


  1. Definitely one of my faves, I've eaten here four times or so, each time fantastic. Glad to see more people loving it!

  2. Everything looks so delicate but rich.. not surprised your stomach was heaving!

  3. oh man that petit fours platter just looks even more incredible every time i see it!

  4. Your photos are lovely and the food looks amazing! Everything looks so delicate and pretty.

    Were you full after the dinner - I thought the meals looked small, but I guess there are seven of them.

    I'd love to try a degustation, never had one before.

  5. Wow! I just loved scrolling down your photos, it was like an art gallery!

  6. Ok now I REALLY can't wait for Arras. 3 weeks to go!

  7. Man... That petit fours slab is the stuff dreams are made of! I want! Hehe.. I'd be the same "One od each please!" Looks like a lovely meal, I have to go next time

  8. Love Arras! Really great to see how their menu keeps changing it up, wonder if they'd let us come by just for dinner + petite fours lol

  9. Amazing photos! The food looks great, everything is so beautifully presented.

  10. Well, asking for one of each of the petits fours means you don't waste precious eating time on making decisions. Good one, Rita!

  11. Why have I not been here yet?!?! Arrghhhh

  12. I admit I haven't been to this restaurant and I never thought I'd say it but I think I'm a little over "art on a plate", it's almost as if they're saying we don't trust you to like our food enough to give you a decent sized serving! Also, the duck and the lamb look way too rare for my taste. They almost made up for it with the unlimited petit fours but the hedgehog roll was more than cute. :)

  13. Argh I keep meaning to get here sometime, if only for that incredible jaw-dropping petit four platter!

  14. Haha good on you for having one of each petit four, I would want the same too, as if I'd want to miss out on something so grand =D Food looks grogeous, this place is on my list, perhaps I can try and request it for my birthday this year =)

  15. I find with degustation menus, that I always think there isn't going to be enough food and then end up waddling out the door. Hedgehog garlic bread roll, sooooo cute!!!

  16. Hooray, may this be the first of many, many degos :)

    Well done on requesting one of each too. Lesser people would be too embarrassed to ;)

  17. wow! what a great feast, for both the hungry tummies and the eyes - you are my hero for still being able to try "one of each" of the petit fours!

  18. Really enjoyed how your photos captured the food presentation! The flowers brought a very refreshing note to the courses! Loved how they used transparent textured glass plate for ‘Smoked, roast and dressed’ dish - it really put emphasis on the ingredients and added edge of crispiness to the dish!

  19. Hey Joey, I can tell you're a big fan and I've been drooling over their popcorn dessert ever since I saw your photos of it!

    Hey Thang, surprisingly not too rich, perhaps due to the lack of any creamy sauces? But very satisfying to say the least!

    Hey chocolatesuze, that petits fours platter is the stuff of dreams, I tell you!

    Hey Fiona, we keep talking about going back...

    Hey MelbaToast, thanks! It really was a visual as well as taste delight. The dishes were all entree-sized - not large, but not tiny either - and definitely enough to fill you.

    Hey YaYa, the presentation of the dishes definitely helped to encourage their eating.

    Hey Karen, not long to go now, my friend! Enjoy =)

    Hey Phuoc, the petits fours tray is great fun to finish off the meal, even when you're already full!

    Hey Minh, I could handle just having the petits fours tray for dessert! =p

    Hey retrodaze, pretty but full of substance too.

    Hey Bel, all in the name of researching the selection available! =D

    Hey FFichiban, I think you would love it!

    Hey Gummi Baby, the serves are more than enough to fill you when combined. I share your reservations about "artful" presentation though - I've been to places where the artfulness exceeds the tastiness, but thankfully this is not the case with Arras!

    Hey Helen, that petits fours platter was definitely one of the major factors that roped me in, haha!

    Hey Angie, I know, it just wouldn't be fair to the petits fours if I didn't try one of each! =p

    Hey Sara, the hedgehog was tasty too! Though I'm pretty sure he wasn't designed to look that way =p

    Hey Conor, it has been! And did you notice there was no beef featured?

    Hey Gianna, haha, only giving the petits fours platter the respect it deserves! =D

    Hey Miljana, thanks for dropping by =) The glass plate definitely highlighted the vibrant colours of the flowers.


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