I have heard many wonderful things about Ad Lib. Original restaurant is located on the North Shore, Ad Lib Bistro Pymble serves classic French food. They have recently opened Ad Lib in Double Bay and we were fortunate enough to get a reservation in Double Bay.
The man behind this fantastic bistro is Dietmar Sawyere – he’s done quite a fair bit in his time. Named Young Chef of the year in London by the Culinary Academy at 19 and the Savoy Company’s Best Young Chef in 1982. He’s worked in London, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Melbourne and also Sydney. Quite an impressive resume.
I was catching up with a friend, W, we have known each other for over a decade now. We didn’t go to the same high school, we met through a mutual friend and have been friends ever since. One of our friends from Uni, D and his girlfriend, M, also joined us for dinner.
We started with complimentary warm sour dough bread, crusty exterior and moist on the inside.
W and I arrived relatively early and D was running super late. We wondered if it was rude to order first. We were both starving and in need of food. We know D quite well and were relatively certain he wouldn’t mind – besides, he was about 40 mins late, so that really warrants us an entree.
We couldn’t go pass the roast Portobello mushroom, garlic snails, and parsley crumbs ($22). It was a relatively large serving and I am glad we shared this. Large roasted mushroom topped with garlic snails and sprinkled with crumbled parsley. The garlic snails were delightful, soft and cooked to perfection. The parsley crumbs really gave it that extra crunch. Full of flavours, and was quite rich, not sickly rich. It was certainly stupendous and a dish we both enjoyed.
Thankfully D and M arrived shortly after we finished our entree. They didn’t want entree, and wanted to go straight into the mains, which suited both of us fine.
I couldn’t go pass the veal liver, sautéed with onions, mushroom, Madeira and cream ($26). I love liver and have not had it for a long time. Served with potatoes, this was excellent. Rich and bold flavours, the liver were cooked medium rare, too rare for W but I certainly enjoyed it. It was a little creamy but the sautéed onions and mushroom were a wonderful complement. I really enjoyed this dish.
W couldn’t go pass the braised ranger beef cheeks, creamed potatoes ($26). Again it was a relatively large serving. The beef cheeks were incredibly tender that it just melted in your mouth. The sauce was rich and strong, reminded me a little of bourgignaon minus the red wine.
M had the fish fillet meuniere served with almonds, green beans, and beurre noisette ($32). The fish was tender and tasty. I loved how it was served with almonds, it gave it that extra flavouring and crunch. I loved the beurre noisette – ‘hazelnut’ butter which was creamy and complemented the fish well.
D ordered the Roast lamb rack, creamed spinach, olives Madeira juice ($38). Lamb was served medium rare and it was a little too pink for my liking. I didn’t have any of this, however, D thought it was good but nothing special. He wouldn’t ‘rave about it’.
We also ordered a side of green beans ($10) – they were superb and cooked to perfection.
We also ordered a side of fries ($10), crunchy and moist, YUM!
For dessert, W and I thought we would share. I didn’t realise until that day that she doesn’t like cooked fruits! How can you not? W and I shared the creme caramel with poached rhubarb and strawberries ($12). The creme caramel was creamy, wobbly and magnificient. I loved the poached rhubarb and the fresh strawberries were incredibly sweet were a wonderful complement.
D and M shared the sticky date pudding ($12), this was deliciously rich and the vanilla bean ice cream gave it a nice touch. Not sure if I could finish the whole thing on my own though, it was a little too rich for my liking.
Service was excellent and friendly. Generous servings and classic French Bistro. I can see why the Pymble branch is continuously booked out. Dietmar Sawyere is a legend and Ad Lib is just another example of how much this man has contributed to Sydney’s dining. Some French food can be too rich and over powering but this was just right. I love the boldness and the flavours of the food, it was indeed a wonderful meal, even better, the company was excellent.
It certainly has been a while since I last caught up with D – he is still the same, hasn’t changed. Apparently I haven’t changed either, physically and emotionally. However, I would like to think that I have grown since uni days.
W, as always, it was so lovely to see you again. Let’s do it again soon!
GA’s ratings: 8.5 / 10
21 Bay Street
Double Bay, 2028