The Basque country of southwest France has a lot in common with Sydney – fresh, high quality seafood and a mild climate among them.
Chef Jean Francois Salet and his partner Ally feel that same connection, and so they set up Le Pelican here in 2006. Salet has spent several years cooking at the much loved and much missed Bayswater Brasserie when he spied the 1850 sandstone terrace on Bourke Street just near Taylor Square. Rather than impose a new identity, they cleverly let the building speak for itself, aside from cleaning the stone and polishing the timber floors. The stone walls glow in the two small front rooms, and the bentwood chairs and white tablecloths are the perfect, minimalist solution. The kitchen is new, of course, but that’s not our affair.
This place really does feel French; not just because of the food and accents of the staff, but also the red and white wine available by carafe as well as bottle. The food is a contemporary reinterpretation of traditional bistro fare. For example, the saffron risotto gets a deconstructivist makeover, the ingredients served separately on the plate to allow the flavours to be enjoyed in isolation or joined on the fork. Their duck and pork paté, more of a terrine in texture, is delicious, as is the seared scallop salad. A popular dishes amongst the mains is the house-smoked flathead pie, cooked with a base of tomatoes, capsicums, white anchovies, mussels and asparagus, and not nearly as heavy as you might expect. Other favourites include the Cowra lamb and the Redgate duck cooked with flavours of rhubarb, yoghurt and liquorice.
There is a good value fixed menu with three courses and a choice of three dishes in each for just $65 and a pretty courtyard for summer dining.