It’s pretty special when visiting a new town to get the chance, without obscene amounts of forward planning, to eat at one of their loveliest restaurants. We were lucky with Garagistes, popped by around 6.30 and got on the list for a 9pm table – perfect timing in my opinion.
Lovely little nibbles to start, herby yoghurt, pickled beet greens, radish and heirloom carrot.
They do either a 3 or a 5 course menu. We asked for the vegetarian menu (obviously) and then had a long debate over how to deal with the fact I wanted the 3 course and he wanted the 5. Thankfully we asked the wonderful service staff and it was no problem to meet halfway and get four courses each – making it possible to try everything on both menus – score!
poached duck egg with brassicas, fried saltbush and chrysanthemum. The guts of serving raw cauli and broccoli convinced me this was a place for me.
tartare of jerusalem artichoke with stinging nettles, pinenut emulsion and golden garlic. Those are fried pieces of jerusachoke skin on top there, wonderful.
florence fennel with cacioricotta and perpetual spinach. This was the boys favourite, fennel done perfectly with great complementary flavours and textures.
braised poitou leeks, buckwheat lettuce sauce and chrysanthemums. Tiny sweet leeks offset with creamy sauce and slightly wilted gently bitter lettuce. This was my favourite course.
kunzea parfait, sunchoke butterscotch, puffed buckwheat, black garlic and chocolate. This was the least sweet dessert I have had, not bad though – the restraint on the sweetness let the depth of flavour really come through. Surprising but lovely.
salt and vinegar mille feuille, forced rhubarb, strawberry sorbet – a more traditional dessert, if you can really say that of anything at this place. The citrus tang of the rhubarb was great, very in favour of more sour or savoury options for rhubarb.
First thing you notice is that this place is grey. I mean GREY. Such a pared back design, but it works – it’s simple and not ostentatious. Soon you stop noticing and appreciate the calmness of the space, and the good distance between tables etc. Some tables are darker than others, some are directly under lighting. Of course we were in a pool of black, so please excuse the quality of these pictures!
First course was “snacks”. I love snacks. I also love the extra bang you get from courses made up of little exciting nibbles.
Crisp with Desiree foam, caper & coffee dust (meat eater version had chicken skin – apparently going for the chips & chicken salt flavour). Potato foam kind of sounds like it’s not going to taste of anything but this had a lovely salty earthy flavour.
Carrot with dried prawn floss was simple and crunchy with the carrot still raw and great salty umaminess from the prawn floss.
Rye taco with sticky rice & buttered egg. This was in my top 3 favourite courses. The waiter presented it as a homage to the former restaurant on this site Cafe Pacifico. I felt like this shouldn’t work – I mean a taco with sticky rice & egg? but by whiz it was amazing – so creamy and with the slight sourness of the rye.
Homemade Finnish rye bread sticky with molasses and served with house churned cultured butter. Delicious.
Bonito with chives and rye, pickle, cracker.
The bonito was gently cured, and studded with poached rye grains – lovely to have the nuttiness of the grains with the meaty fish. Great lacto fermented pickle too with a tiny dot of concentrated pickle sauce.
Lamb tartare (eggplant in my case) with togorashi and smoked capsicum. This was just stellar. Amusingly the vego and meat versions looked practically identical, almost double checked with the waiter. The silky eggplant matched perfectly with the gently spicy togorashi and the crunch flakes of red capsicum.
Roast cabbage Meyer lemon butter mussels cavolo nero dust and pomelo. The only difference between my version and the regular one was that the regular one had bone marrow. This was maybe our favourite dish. Sweet rich curled leaves of the roasted cabbage, tiny sour jewels of pomelo, the tiny mussels hidden in there were tender and salty and the cavolo dust just made it all taste verdant and fresh. Meyer lemon butter perfectly tempered some of the richness of the cabbage.
Dory fillet with mustard & spinach paper, anchovy foam, spinach foam, mustard seeds – this was the pescetarian alternative to the “photato” – below. The fish was a surprisingly large fillet pan fried in butter, finished with spinach and mustard paper which were both interesting, though kind of paper textured.
The meat eater’s version was the “photato” with potato noodles, wagyu fillet and grilled Meyer lemon. The boy made many appreciative noises about the mushrooms and crunchy potato particularly.
Licorice, carrot & yoghurt – another top 3 dish. This was the first of the sweet dishes and was a licorice flavoured cake at the base, a quenelle of carrot sorbet which was then wrapped in a yoghurt and sour cream mixture that had been whipped to make it just that bit lighter. The effect when cut in half was like an egg on rye toast. The different textures and temperatures were just perfect.
Chocolate mousse malt ball, parsley granita with candied parsley & banana. Second dessert course was also amazing, giant ball of a heavy but shiny chocolate mousse rolled in malt on top of a banana puree with fresh green pull of parsley lifting it all and tying it together.
Then the hilarious buttered corn floss – a sight so appealing that fingers snuck in to grab some before I could take even one of my dodgy photos!
The final snack I managed to miss photographing entirely – the boy had a pork rind dusted with fennel and covered in chocolate, I got a sweet little chocolate koala filled with eucalyptus caramel.
All in all – magnificent. Service was fantastic, and at only $85 a pop this is possibly the best value degustation in Sydney AND one of the tastiest. This restaurant is a one year pop up so get in while you can.