store 55 455 George St
|opening hours||Breakfast, lunch and dinner every day from 6 am|
|Characteristic||With license, Accepts reservations, Bar, Breakfast-brunch, Business lunches, Gluten-free options, Groups, Long meals, Lunch specials, Outdoor terrace, Pre-post-theater, Romance-first date, Disabled access|
|Prices||Moderate (main dishes $20-$40)|
|Telephone||02 9051 2008|
There’s only one beer, and it’s Kronenbourg. There is only one mineral water, and it is Perrier. There’s only one soup of the day, and it’s “du jour.” (And, of course, it’s pumpkin. All the soups of the day are pumpkin, according to some unwritten law.)
Manon, as you have deduced, is French. Emphatically, eccentrically and charmingly.
It is the second collaboration for co-owners Marco Ambrosino and Manny Spinola, after Level 1 of Lola in Bondi. H&E Architects took the French brasserie brief and followed it, installing generous red leather and velvet pews, a pair of comfortable booths, bentwood chairs, brass-inlaid wooden tables, opaque glass dividers, and hanging light bulbs.
It fits like a glove inside the Town Hall end of the QVB, looking out over historic sandstone buildings and the rather broad back (sorry, ma’am) of Queen Victoria herself, carved in stone.
The chef is also French. Thomas Boisselier trained in France and cooked at the Hotel and Spa du Castellet in Provence before moving to Gambaro and Blackhide in Brisbane. The menu is, quelle surprise, French, from beef tartare and steak au poivre to canard a l’orange.
There are invitations to throw money to the wind, with beluga caviar, 1kg cotes de boeuf and whole live lobsters, and plain lobsters for a business breakfast.
Not everything makes sense, mind. A bowl of beef consommé studded with foie gras and topped with a puff pastry dome is listed as the main course for $49. It’s a tribute to the great French chef Paul Bocuse, who originally cooked it for French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing in 1975. His version was stuffed with truffles, which the chef plans to include now that we’re in truffle season. Though I’m still not sure I understand.
It’s very nice that real sauces are back in fashion after the endless blandness of The Mayo Years, and Boisselier is a good gravy man. Snail meurette ($27) refers to the classic burgundy red wine and bacon sauce often served with eggs, but it turns out to be ideal with fresh, fat Tasmanian La Perouse Escargot snails sprinkled with herbs and served with toast. with garlic
Another well nailed salsa comes with fries ($39). Shallot juice builds up around a rare cut of bavette (flank), and it’s just what you need to mash up your crispy, golden fries.
There’s also beurre blanc, of course, topping a thin fillet of coral trout ($39) in a mix of cauliflower florets and well-cooked mussels.
The wine list is navigable and interesting, from a vibrant and extravagant gamay, the 2020 Chateau Cambon La Cuvee de Chat Beaujolais ($95), to a 2018 Domaine Ponsot Griotte-Chambertin ($1,850).
At lunch, the menu is a bit tighter, but offers a well-balanced, rich tartare of hand-chopped beef ($29), offset by crispy grated pommes gaufrettes. House-smoked salmon ($28) is boring, thickly sliced and sweetly glazed with balsamic vinegar, and a croque-monsieur is bland ($17).
I can’t remember the last time I ordered ile flottante – wait, yes I can, it was 15 years ago at France-Soir in Melbourne, and before that, La Mere Vittet in Lyon, 30 years ago. This one is small but cloud-like ($19), its island of meringue floating in a sea of pale crème anglaise, flavored with darkly roasted almond flakes.
Manon is still a work in progress, with bar stools and a seafood counter on the way to the marble bar. More seating on the open terraces at the front and side of the restaurant will be great for people watching in the spring.
But what it already has is plenty of joie de vivre, with Ambrosino, foodie Thomas Iakhlef, and sommelier Harry Hunter determined to set a relaxed, chatty, no-rules mood.
In a city that likes to mix culinary genres and modernize everything, Manon comes across as surprisingly classic, a bit old-fashioned, in a good way. It seems like there’s only one way they want to play this, and that’s in French.
the bass below
Ambient Slightly eccentric Burgundian brasserie full of joie de vivre
go to the plate Snail meurette, $27
Beverages French beer, digestifs, and a strong French-led wine list.
Terry Durack is the leading restaurant critic in Sydney’s morning herald and lead reviewer Good food guide.