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French Sugar: Tabou Restaurant

So you’ve left Paris behind you, you’ve gone back to work and moved on with your life…but sometimes, you still wake up craving those delicately presented desserts, those bubbly aperitifs and those rich mains. Of course, if you were a backpacker, you probably only remember the expensive beer and rude waiters. But no matter how your memories of Paris stack up, you will find a little of what you’re missing at Tabou in Surry Hills.

Of course, it’s not quite the same: the atmosphere lacks that dark, moody quality of French bistros that only cigarette smoke and poor lighting can bestow – but when it comes to the food, you’ll be transported back to those cobbled streets and grand avenues of the Lover’s City. The entrées and desserts are the delectable highlights, so if you can’t do three courses, then split them with your friends – you won’t regret it.

What is really exciting about the menu is that it avoids the traditional clichés (aside from the steak frites) for more challenging fare such as veal liver, escargots and a guinea fowl tasting menu. I haven’t seen guinea fowl on a menu outside of France, so this is an exciting development! While listening to The Godfather theme song (an unexpected choice for a restaurant that is neither Italian nor associated with gang activity) I sample caramelised scallops with a cauliflower puree, delicate mushroom sauce, morelles and slices of turnip. The dish has a rich and perfectly balanced flavour, in contrast with the menu’s explanation of it: ‘Caramelised scallops, turnips, cauliflower, morelles’, which sounds marginally more interesting than soap water. But an underwhelming menu certainly does make you appreciate what you’re served a little more – my sole disappoint is that I only have two scallops and they taste mighty fine. From there, I move onto the roasted rack of lamb with braised shoulder, sweetbreads and ratatouille. The lamb falls apart at the softest touch, the ratatouille is subtle and the mystery meat sweetbread look disturbingly like brain. The meal is delicious but I’m not singing ‘hallelujah’.

That is until I sink my cutlery into the dessert described as “chocolate parfait, hazelnut jelly, caramel”. A long slim cylinder of chocolate parfait lies next to a smooth gooey dulce de leche (caramel) ice cream, which is melting over a patch of chocolate “soil”. The perfect rectangle of hazelnut jelly sits quietly to the side covered in hazelnut “soil”. The all-orange assault known as the Assiette d’Orange reveals similar precision in its presentation. Fresh slices of orange lie beneath a scoop of sorbet. Two cylinders of (surprise, surprise) orange ice cream border the design, which also includes a cube of jelly and a sheet of candied orange. Often desserts are where restaurants get lazy and tired but at Tabou, this is the course that stands out the most. Sugar lovers take note.

You won’t find this restaurant in the bargain bin, but it’s reasonably priced for the quality of the fare.

Tabou restaurant is located at 527 Crown Street, Surry Hills.

words: Susannah Singh


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