Libertine – what a great word! French: someone who acts without morals or is promiscuous (usually a man). Sounded like we would be enjoying a somewhat debaucherous lunch. Yes, it was delicious and we enjoyed some wonderful new flavours, but those who like to indulge with larger portion sizes may find them a bit small.
I’ve been wanting to try Libertine for ages, a French-Vietnamese Restaurant in the Barracks at Paddington. Actually I hadn’t even seen what the Barracks at Paddington looked like since their redevelopment. May I just say, great job! It’s a funky little shopping / eating / cinema precinct with free parking for up to 2 hours, a bit of a luxury in cities these days. I still hate paying too much for parking… actually I take this as a sure sign I’m getting old because I am thinking about paying 20c an hour in Burleigh years ago. Oh no! I’m telling stories about “the old days” – back to the food!
We arrived without a booking which was OK as it was a Tuesday at 12pm. There were a couple of small groups but generally it was a pretty quiet lunch. The interior design is gorgeous – they’ve nailed the French-Vietnamese design aesthetic. Black wooden floors, high ceilings, chandeliers, funky wallpaper and touches of red in the furniture and decor. The courtyard looks like a great place to enjoy an after work or afternoon drink.
We perused the menu and decided to enjoy some share plates as the waitress explained their food is sort of like tapas (i.e. share). I ordered a glass of Rose and Sime had his usual Campari, 6 cubes of ice and a squeezed wedge of fresh lime (you should try it, it’s really good). The waitress explained that some dishes take longer, so each dish would come out as it was ready.
The first dish to arrive was the Wild Pepper Leaf Roll Up with slippery lobster, crispy garlic and shallots, coconut and galangal sauce ($8.5 each). The flavours were light and delicate, and didn’t overpower the lobster. Although the filling fell out of the betel leaf it was so good that we picked up every bit of the filling we could find on our plates. What a great way to start our meal!
Next we had the Honey and 5 spice BBQ duck with coconut and turmeric crepes ($18). Again, some great flavours with the sweet, sticky duck, cut and served skin on (yum), fresh coriander, basil and mint, and the delicate flavour of the crepes. I just re-read the menu and it said this was a serve of 4 and we only received 2? Still, as you can see from the pic they filled up the plate.
After this our Rice Paper Rolls arrived. Usually I go for the standard prawn or pork versions when I can find decent Vietnamese restaurants (does anyone know a good Vietnamese on the Gold Coast?). This time I decided this time to try the Rice Paper Rolls with pickled shiitake mushrooms and daikon with sesame seeds, soy & chilli sauce ($12). The flavours again were delicious, the pickled mushrooms with the sweet daikon and dipping sauce tasted great. Only small point would be that the portion size is pretty small, usually rice paper rolls are rolled tightly and filled to the brim, these were a little loose.
After a few more minutes our last dish arrived, which I think was the highlight of the meal. Two tartars of Tenderloin Steak and Hiramasa Kingfish w/ char grilled baguette & wontons ($19.5). Wow, what can I say? I’ve never had a traditional Tartar, and was wondering if it would gross me out, especially with the quail’s egg yolk perched on top of the beef. However, the texture was amazing with a pronounced truffle flavour throughout. The beef tasted great on the baguette slices. As for the Kingfish – yet again, fantastic. Such delicate flesh served with lime pips and a light masterful blend of flavours. This tasted wonderful on the won tons, lending it almost a Mexican flavour (weird but true!).
We decided to order some dessert, so while I was out at the bathroom Sime chose the trio of ice cream (knowing I’m a sucker for ice cream, and because he was still hankering for something as good as Justin Lane’s Lemongrass and Ginger ice cream). The dessert arrived served in a crispy wonton basket served with some slices of strawberry on top. The 3 flavours were – Pandan, Galliano and Mango and Star Anise sorbet. For those who don’t know, Pandan is a green essence made from the screwpine, used usually in Malaysian cooking (particularly yummy cakes). It has a very unusual, musty, vanilla like flavour (that sounded bad, but it’s great). The pandan ice cream was creamy in texture with just enough of the pandan flavour. Since I don’t really like liquorice or Galliano, Sime enjoyed that flavour and said it was good (not as creamy as the aforementioned Justin Lane ice cream, but still good). The Mango and star anise sorbet was a bit lacking, too watery / icy in texture with a overly delicate syrupy flavour (I was expecting a bit of a punchy Mango flavour with strong Star Anise).
Overall we really enjoyed our meal, the service was great – friendly and attentive, and our water glasses were never empty. The ambience was wonderful. Also as I mentioned earlier the flavours were divine. We are small eaters though (despite the volume of posts on my blog), so we were satisfied after 4 small plates and dessert. Those among you who enjoy larger portion sizes will not cope unless you order more food. The meal cost $88.5 including a glass of wine and a campari – again, if you’re not full after paying that much for lunch you may feel jipped… but keep in mind that if you order a rice or noodle dish you might be OK.
Loo review – the toilets are part of the Barracks complex and very clean, just outside the restaurant door so nice and close. I give them an 8.