Dietmar Sawyere is unstoppable. Having re-opened Berowra Waters Inn in 2007 and added a guesthouse down the river, and recently closed Forty One, he has now opened Ad Lib – the pride of Pymble.
Here, you'll find all the restaurant finesse of Berowra Waters, only in a bistro setting. While you won't find brass railings, specials written in lipstick on old mirrors or the warm golden glow of old lamps (it's a fairly nondescript space) there's all the hustle and bustle of a proper French bistro. The room is typically packed and everyone's having a good time.
The offering is more casual as well as being cheaper, sure, but there's still a high level of service and the food is made with exceptional skill and great produce. Onion soup, thick with tendrils of melted gruyere and topped with a slice of (more) melted gruyere on toast, is brown, glossy and, well, oniony. Porky pucks of ear, trotter and tail are fried and served with a runny sauce gribiche and if you're a complete glutton you might order a couple of fresh-shucked oysters to have on the side. As it is, ordering the soup with a mimosa salad on the side is gut-busting enough. A mimosa salad, in case you're unsure, is a traditional French salad where a boiled egg is grated with the white and yolk separated. Here, though, they cheat a little (or update, if you like) with a slow-cooked egg hiding under a nest of frisée lettuce, bits of fried pork jowl and tiny little crisp croutons.
The duck liver parfait is like eating thick cream on toast. Light and fluffy and served in a teeny little jar with slices of sourdough, it's the best you'll find in town. If you want, there's steak (tartare, sirloin, fillet, rib eye). But there's also the braised chicken thighs – coq au vin style – with big sprigs of chervil, Dutch carrots, pine mushrooms and lardons. If you order sides, this dish is big enough to share between two.
And the sides – oh my, the sides. Go Swiss with the likes of spätzle (an irregularly shaped European style boiled noodle) with fried onions and cheese or crisp shavings of potato rosti. What about a side of buttered tagliatelle or French fries and mayo? The possibilities to carb load are endless. If you haven't actually ruptured your abdominal sheath at this point, why not order dessert? They serve massive quenelles of their dark chocolate mousse tableside out of a giant bowl, drizzled with thick cream, garnished with chocolate wafer straws.
The wine list offers great value. The first page of the list is broken into four different serving sizes from tasters to full bottles with nothing over $60. Of course, you feel you'd like to splash out a little more, flip overleaf for reserve wines.
Service is friendly and skewed towards locals. In fact, don't be surprised if you see chef/owner Dietmar Sawyere on the floor busting a few plate moves himself. Now splitting his time between Berowra and Ad Lib, he's also rumoured to be expanding the guesthouse at Berowra to include a set of tree houses out the back and maybe even a houseboat. Bring it on, we say.
|Venue name:||Ad Lib Bistro||Contact:|
1047 Pacific Highway
|Opening hours:||Mon-Fri 12pm-2.30pm, 5pm-10pm; Sat 5pm-10pm|