Living in Sydney, I feel incredibly privileged and spoilt for choice when it comes to dining out. Lately I have felt a strong affinity to revisit France, and all things French have been making me crave the culture. It’s hard to replicate that true essence that makes France, well France - however upon visiting Le Simpatic O in leafy Lane Cove, I was immersed back into the country of red, white and blue.
Traditional Garlic and Parsley Butter Escargot
Welcome to France, Sydney style.
With a set of red table and chairs out the front and blackboard specials; the theme of simplistic French class and charm are evidently adorned throughout the space. The roof is painted in blackboard paint, and is brightly decorated with cultural references, both Aussie and French in bold, bright chalk.
Like a cafe in Paris
A chalk decorated ceiling
We are greeted by an elegant French speaking waitress (who later reveals she is the owners daughter) and shown to a table facing out onto the street. There is warmth and attentiveness in the service, and an eagerness to explain any questions about the menu.
The menu is a classic, traditional French menu and is not overly extensive. I find this quite comforting as it shows there is a strong focus on doing simple dishes exceptionally. There are a few set menu options, as well as an a la carte menu to choose from.
Warm and inviting interior
There is a $42 and a $55 set menu which is available Tuesday to Thursday, as well as the A La Carte. The $42 menu features a selection of entrees ($14 each) like : Ouef Mollet Meurette - an egg mollet served with onion reduction and red wine sauce; Escargot a la bourguignonne - 1/2 dozen snails in shell with butter, parsley and garlic; or the luscious Mousse de canard, comprising of duck liver parfait with pickles and baguette.
Entrees hot from the kitchen
The $55 set menu features entrees ($18 each) which include Escargot aver soufle - stew of snails, speck, mushrooms and parsley sauce served with gruyere soufle, or the Avocat aux crabe - avocado and crab meat remoulade served with garlic prawns.
Choosing the $42 set menu, for entree I tried both the Escargot a la bourguignonne, and the Mousse de cannard. Now I know snails are not for everyone, but they are definitely worth trying for those with an adventurous sense of taste and style. If I could best describe the texture and flavour - the texture is that of a cooked oyster with bite, and the flavours are of a delicious garlic butter.
The duck liver parfait is creamy and is liken to that of pate - absolutely divine with the fresh crusty baguette, together with the sour kick from the pickles.
The duck liver parfait platter
The parfait and baguette, delicious.
Within the $42 set menu, the main choices ($24 each) include Moules Frites; Mussels marniniere served with french fries; Fish of the day (Snapper at the eve of my visit) or the Salade de travers de porc, comprising of salad of crispy pork belly with potatoes, boiled egg and gribiche sauce. The $55 dollar menu features main choices ($30 each) and include Boeuf aux poivre vert - Traditional eye fillet of beef served with green peppercorn sauce and french fries; Cannard et pommes lyonnaise; confit duck served with potatoes lyonnaise and salad with speck and boiled eggs.
Glasses of red, and a menu of options.
My main selection was the crispy pork belly. It was so incredibly tender and devoid of that excessive and at times over indulgent serving of fat that is synonymous with pork belly. The texture of the boiled egg was light and added a retro style to the dish.
The pork belly main
As always I get seduced by the dessert menus when I am already feeling excessively full, but a French desert menu? How could I say no. For those who choose the $42 menu, dessert selections include ($10 each) - Mont blanc avec fruits - Vanilla custard with fruits; Soupe de fraises - Soup of strawberries with ice cream, or try the Ile flottante - Vienna almond floating island served with vanilla custard. Within the $55 set menu ($13 each) the sweet treats include the classic Profiteroles filled with ice cream served with hot chocolate; Creme Brûlée served with toffee, or the Tarte framboise genache chocolat, comprising of a tart with raspberries mousse, chocolate ganache and whipped cream.
To continue with the slightly left of centre snail entree option, my desert choice was the strawberry soup with ice cream. Not only is the colour a vibrant and robust pool of deep red, but it really is the flavour of summer in a bowl. I love the creativity and deliciousness of this desert, and the way it isn’t too rich - with only the sweetness coming from the fruit. I tried the Vanilla Custard with fruits which was also surprisingly light and filled with beautiful seasonal fruits.
Strawberry Soup. A must have for berry lovers.
Vanilla Custard and seasonal fruits
And nothing like a a glass of Hennessy Cognac VSOP ($9 for all liqueurs) to top off a superb evening.
I feel like I have uncovered a hidden gem, a travel machine that will teleport any customer straight to a traditional French bistro. The ambience, the service, and the food is all delivered with a style of genuine love and French home roots. I would definitely revisit here with a group of friends for a fun and cultural night out. Un grand choix!
A treasure for French food lovers
Where: 94B Longueville Road Lane Cove NSW.
Why: Traditional French flavours served in a simple, warm ambience.
Cost: Set menu's start from $42-$55
When: Lunch: Tuesday to Friday from midday. Dinner: Tuesday to Saturday from 6pm.