Hatted Lorraine’s Bistro – A bougie toastie, the best woodfired chicken you have tasted and a grilled cabbage you won’t forget

When we first heard rumours of Lorraine’s decadent bougie toasty made of crisp brioche, with layers of oozy savoury Comte and Gruyere cheeses, topped with zingy zucchini pickles and premium avruga caviar. We were ready to pounce thinking it was Merivale’s desert master in the city. Oh que non!! Wrong Lorraine – This flavour bomb is being cooked by French chef, Clement Marchais and is found near the seaside in Waverley.

A quick investigation later and we wonder how we have missed this gem which won a hat in the latest 2023 Australian Good Food Guide. We set our GPS for postcode 2024 and off we go in search of said toastie and French inspiration.

We arrive on a rainy wet Wednesday (All You Can Eat Mussel Day). The Robin Hood Hotel is the home of Lorraine’s, in fact its named after Lorraine Havin, who was one of the first female licensees in New South Wales in 1979. Go Girl. Downstairs is a typical Aussie boozer, not somewhere you would expect to find a hatted restaurant. Despite the signs, corroborating evidence, why do we feel like we are in the wrong place? We walk upstairs and it’s as if the foodie angels are singing from the rafters of a stunning, almost church-like space with high ceilings, exposed beams and pews (aka booths) leading to a beautiful bar.

the bar

We are welcomed warmly by Connor, a Texan who has more charm in his little finger than many places have across their entire floor team. The space is romantic, homely, local and beautiful.

Toastie and champagne the perfect combo

We take our seats by the window and soon two glasses of NZ Mumm arrive.
Not heard of it? Pernod Ricard NZ collaborated with the Champagne house G.H.Mumm to produce sparkling wines using traditional Champagne-making techniques. It’s a delicious wine, with creamy mouth feel, lemon curd and briochy flavours. Then the toastie arrives, it’s showered with cheese, prettier than the pictures. It’s halved and we each pick up a triangle. I am troubled as my dining partner Mr G has a bigger portion NOoooo! It’s amazing! cripsy, buttery, oozy from the cheeses, but then the pickles come through with a balancing soft acidity and I pick off some of the caviar to just have its own moment of pop and mmmm. MC Hammer stylin’- you can’t touch this.

Prawns (front) , duck and leeks

We head onwards through the tasting menu – Each is a single plate which we share. What a lovely way to dine. Each delicate porcelain plate arrives with its own story. I love this style of serving and it’s so much more enjoyable. Two Skull Island Prawns are doused in koji butter with dark spots of Espelette pepper which release spice and aromatics. A topnot of spelt puff pastry encases a rich confit of duck. A single stroke of the knife and it folds outwards into a glossy duck jus. This is a duck dish for duck lovers, and the cold dish of charred Leeks is an elegant pairing cutting through the richness with apple, hazelnut, truffle vinaigrette.

After a ‘Sour Frenchman in New York’ (a cocktail not a person and notable for its use of aquafaba rahter than egg white) and a Balter XPA we are ready for the next course which starts with the Corn Fed Chicken. Now it’s easy to say those three words, but this chick has been loved in so many ways – brined, smoked, slow cooked and finished on a woodfire grill. It’s a French masterpiece when you add roasted brioche jus and aromatics of tarragon. Each slice of chicken is the best you have tasted and the jus is full of umami flavours rolling over our tongues. Chargrilled savoy cabbage might not set your world on fire on paper, but on the plate it’s almost my favourite dish. A quarter section of Savoy is charred from the grill, the sugars creating golden hues, it sits on a silky cashew creme with fraiche, and crunchy macadamia. Dive in with a fork, it’s heavenly. The addition of a plate of petit pois brings a playful freshness to the trio with spring peas, zucchini flower and a lemony yuzu sabayon.

Creme brulee

We end with a Crème Brûlée to end all others. It’s wonderfully thin and flat maximising the algebraic equation of surface area to enjoyment. In our book that means lots of crusty crunchy goodness to bash through please. Underneath the vanilla custard is smooth and rich with eggy goodness. We are divided on the need for the coffee granita. When you have the perfection – nothing else is required, not even a granita.

Which pretty much sums up Lorraine’s Bistro – a neighbourhood gem with a talented chef leading a great kitchen, superb floor team who make our dining experience so enjoyable with unflappable, warmth and generousity. Maybe there is something in the Tex-Franco combo not explored yet.

Lorraines Bistro 203 Bronte Road, Waverley, NSW 2024
Hours: Wednesday to Saturday for dinner
The toastie ($25) is available from April 12 for one month, which includes a flute of bubbles. Bottomless Mussels menu for $39pp every Wednesday night, and $12 Cocktail Happy Hour from 4pm to 6pm every Wednesday to Friday on seasonal cocktails.

About the author

Karen’s corporate job back in the UK had included entertaining clients in some of the best restaurants. This ultimately sparked a curiosity 'Just how do they do that?' (she confesses she was brought up on meat and vegetables, so this was all very exciting). Currently a Mr & Mrs Smith 'Tastemaker', she’s flashpacked around the world, learning about wine, experiencing different cultures and cuisines and had a two- year love affair with it all. Originally from England, she finally settled in Australia and continues to be besotted by food, wine and travel preferring to focus on the luxury end of town (thread count does matter).


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