While French food is well known for being staunchly traditional, the idea there’s room for contemporary interpretation has been growing. Especially in Paris where for the past seven or so years, an increasing number of chefs have been intent on modernising French food, especially in the bistro space. That philosophy is at the centre of what chef Drew Bolton is doing at Été, which opened in Barangaroo this week.
“A lot of chefs’ cooking is grounded in French techniques, but I feel the fundamental mindset of French cooking is changing,” says Bolton. “At Été we’re taking classical French preparations and contemporising them. I don’t mind bending the rules.”
Proof is in Été’s veal tartare. “It doesn’t get more classical French than veal tartare,” says Bolton. Here, he uses ethically reared Torello Rosé Veal. “It’s this incredible, pure-flavoured meat that reminds me of veal from Paris,” he says. “When I first tasted it, I thought, ‘I have to serve this raw.’”
The tartare’s flavour is clean and the sides give the dish a contemporary, if not indulgent, lift. There’s a decadent foie gras ganache, sauce gribiche (egg yolk mayonnaise) and anchovy toast.
The blue-eye cod done in a grenobloise-style is another classic bistro dish that Bolton has updated. “It’s traditionally made with burnt butter, lemon and capers, but we’ve made it lighter on the palate.”
The fish is poached in a fragrant liquid of lemon and orange juice, vermouth and water, and served with eggplant and pine mushrooms picked and preserved last autumn in anticipation of the opening.
The wine list, as you imagine, is predominantly French, and each season the menu focuses on a different region of France. For summer, the wines of the Loire Valley are featured. There is also a list of premium wines served by the glass thanks to the Coravin, a device allowing a single glass to be poured without oxidising the remaining wine.
The idea behind the restaurant décor and design was approachable. “This isn’t a restaurant people will come to once just a year. I want them to be able to come all the time. It’s a step down from fine dining,” says Bolton.
Overlooking King Street Wharf, Été is open and welcoming; there’s plenty of timber, accented by paintings and dramatic single line murals of faces by artist John Zabawa. At the entry there's a dramatic, floor-to-ceiling screen hung with dried flowers and fresh produce and a wall of windows in the dining room lets in a bright, glistening light from the water.
T1.03 Tower 1, Barangaroo Avenue, Barangaroo 2000
(02) 9052 5383
Daily 12pm-3pm; 6pm-late.