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high street bistro, willoughby

October 21, 2013
Baked gruyere and tilsit cheeses with herbs de provence, sourdough and cornichons $18

baked gruyere and tilsit cheeses with herbs de provence, sourdough and cornichons $18

After six months of Tuesday night dinners (and two months’ space in between), we reconvened.

Koji and Gol, housemates across two separate residences. Annie and I, the girlfriends who were pretty much housemates due to the sheer amount of time we spent together waiting for the boys, cooking in their giant kitchen and shaking our heads at the amount of rubbish that collected in various corners of their since-vacated share house.

I’d spotted a discount voucher on-line, “Pay $99 and order up to $199 worth of food from the menu”, it had declared in bold black typeface, and so emails went out and a date was selected in amongst all of the weddings and birthdays and housewarmings and picnics – the Tuesday night dinner redux.

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I’d been to this site previously, before the top-hatted fish and monochrome faces were installed, in it’s earlier reincarnation as Maitre Karl. There the service was warm, the food hearty and unique with its Alsacian-style cuisine.

Oh yes, the food was good then, and I was hoping for a similarly good feed, particularly in light of the bistro’s motto – “Respect thy Produce”.

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And here is where my usual commentary stops. The pithy portions of conversation. The medley of descriptors that fall over each other as I strain to enunciate my experiences.

Because I’ve really struggled to write about this meal.

The food was neither disappointing nor a standout. The service was acceptable – cordial, spacious and without any of the overbearing niceties one sometimes endures when dining.

I wouldn’t, and didn’t. call my nearest and dearest gushing about my experience, but neither would I dissuade a friend from dining there. The prices are fair, the ingredients are of a high quality and are cooked well.

Oysters  freshly opened oysters with a chardonnay vinegar $36 (1 doz)

Oysters freshly opened oysters with a chardonnay vinegar $36 (1 doz)

But I missed the pizzazz. The excitement of taking a bite and reveling in new flavours and textures. The surprise of unusual plating, of previously unimaginable pairings, of discovery.

And then I wondered if it was really necessary. If the spate of recent openings, the ironically disheveled interiors and the trend-hitting menus had dulled my appreciation for the simple and well made. If I had raised my expectations beyond that of the restaurant’s purpose – to provide and serve well-cooked food – to that of a performance.

Roasted herb infused Spatchcock (deboned) on crushed potato, black olive petals, white anchovy with a parsley and herb salad $29  // side of brussels sprouts

roasted herb infused spatchcock (deboned) on crushed potato, black olive petals, white anchovy with a parsley and herb salad $29 // side of brussels sprouts

Crisp duck leg confit with savoy cabbage, lardons, black pudding and a red wine jus $29

crisp duck leg confit with savoy cabbage, lardons, black pudding and a red wine jus $29

green salad // Char grilled, Grain fed, 300g scotch fillet, twice cooked fat chips and bearnaise sauce $36

green salad // char grilled, grain fed, 300g scotch fillet, twice cooked fat chips and bearnaise sauce $36

Why do we eat at restaurants?

Is it a lack of ability? An attempt to consume foods that would otherwise be beyond our culinary reaches? A rope thrown in the direction of the temporarily kitchenless (or those for whom kitchens are a foreign and deadly location)?

Is it for ease? Friends and family gathering at a central location. No one person having been allocated the responsibility of cooking and cleaning for the rest of the party. Everyone taking their part, paying their share and nobody being left with the dishes.

Or is there something more to it?

Have the masses of reviews and ratings – the hats, stars and spoons – turned dining out into a form of entertainment in itself? Where one is simply not satisfied with the ability to exchange money for a prepared meal, but also expects to be served and delighted upon and delighted by the form of said nutrition?

Quince Tarte Tatin with crème anglaise and cinnamon ice cream $14

Quince Tarte Tatin with crème anglaise and cinnamon ice cream $14

Passionfruit crème brulee with an orange and almond tuile $14

Passionfruit crème brulee with an orange and almond tuile $14

Dark chocolate and salted caramel tart with crème fraiche and smashed raspberries $14

Dark chocolate and salted caramel tart with crème fraiche and smashed raspberries $14

I enjoyed my meal at High St Bistro. I appreciated the little touches – muslin tied around the lemon so that we wouldn’t slurp seeds along with our oysters, the generous portion of bearnaise that accompanied my steak, the unctuous duck paired with mealy blood sausage, the wide face of the creme brulee which allowed for extra toffee and the fragrance of quince paired with spicy cinnamon ice cream and vanilla anglaise.

It was food cooked well and without fanfare.

Which is all a restaurant is expected to provide. Or is it?

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High Street Bistro

197 High Street, Willoughby NSW 2068
ph 9958 1110
open for breakfast Sat & Sun 8am – 11am / lunch every day from midday / apertifs Thurs to Sat 4pm – 6pm / dinner mon to sat 6pm – 10pm


  • #1
    October 22nd, 2013

    Eating out I find is a convenient way to suit the majority, without having anyone have to prep all day, cook or clean for hours after. Don’t get me wrong, some people just love to do it (myself included) but sometimes it is easier to eat out and possibly try something new.

Shez