Tucked away in a quiet corner of Crows Nest is a cheap alternative to a holiday in Provence. An unassuming cottage on the outside, inside La Grillade is both Gallic hominess and sober modernity. From the same people who brought you the new Vicinity Dining in Alexandria, La Grillade is the North Shore equivalent to Ananas, if less show-offy in appearance.
It ticks all the boxes in what to expect in a French restaurant: attentive service with the right accent, slightly rustic charm, plates served on little ornamental stands, and good vino. Where it varies is a lack of enforced novelty, so forget piped Parisian muzik. A large indoor dining room has a wintery feel, but it's complimented by the floral and summery covered outdoor space at the back.
Chef Nathan Jackson has a small kitchen to work with, but whisks up an impressive menu. Starting with a great value share plate of king salmon tartare and fresh truffle cream, a soft slab of slow-cooked beef short rib, two tiny croquettes and a delicious duck liver pate with champagne jelly ($18.50), things move along quickly to the entrees.
Twice-baked spanner crab soufflé ($18.50) is topped with a bubbly shellfish and saffron reduction, while two grilled scallops ($19.50) are appropriately tender. The rolled lamb breast ($34), slow cooked for 36 hours, is centered in a swirl of gravy and artichoke puree, is gallantly Gallic and the best of the mains, that also include a larger lamb shoulder for two.
The French excel at desserts, and modesty is not a quality stereotypically attributed to the nationality, but there's no need for being humble here. The chocolate torte ($17) is pricey but solid, and the raspberry mille feuille, a deconstructed wonder of fruit, orange blossom and crème fraiche ice cream ($17) that's complex and delicious.
The French connection is strong, and the surroundings comfy. High praise is deserved for this Gallic charmer.