Mere Catherine

As you know, I love and cook real food. And last night we had some of the most authentic honest food that I’ve eaten at a restaurant for a while.

I love the fact that in Sydney there are spots that transport you to another place – Eastlakes shopping centre for example which feels like it is in the Middle East. Woolworths even sells packs of goat there – awesome. Cabramatta for real Vietnamese feeling eateries of course. And Mere Catherine last night – a little village in France anyone, in the middle of the Cross?

It was my mother’s birthday dinner, and what a good choice.

At 166 Victoria St Potts Point (opposite Ms Gs), is a beautiful, little (and I mean tiny) French restaurant called Mere Catherine. You would miss it if you didn’t know where you were going and what to look for. Have your eyes peeled. The dining room has only a handful of tables. You feel like you have been transported to someone’s dining room in the south of France maybe 20 years ago. The tablecloths are white but busy, there is a blue tinge to everything (walls, tables, chairs), there are doilies everywhere and paper napkins have been folded into a fan shape, very lovingly. Amazingly it still managed to feel sort of cool.

The chef was born near Lyon and his cooking is true to that region. The French Onion Soup is to die for – not only is the beef stock incredibly rich and full of flavour, but the onions are lovingly caramelised (we heard it takes over 4 hours to make the soup and that is not including making the beef stock). The soup is finished at the table with an egg yolk whisked through it and a small shot of port added right before eating. Amazing. The portion was very generous but I just had to eat it all. I have been lucky enough to eat French onion soup at bistros in Paris but the addition of the egg yolk and port was new to me. The added richness and depth and sweetness it gave the soup is inspired. All I have wanted to do since, is try to replicate the soup at home, or to go back and eat it again as soon as possible.

For course 2, my mum and I shared the chateaubriand. You just have to order the house specialty at this sort of restaurant. A great big hunk of beautifully cooked head of eye fillet, flambéed in a brandy peppercorn sauce and then sliced generously. It was way too big for the two of us to finish even though the meat was perfectly cooked and had so much flavour. The potatoes and creamed spinach sides which come standard, while rich were quite lovely. I could have done without the spinach and maybe had a green salad dressed with French vinaigrette (better ordering on my part required next time) but it was close to perfect. The potatoes came in a very old cast iron pan with a wooden handle – it looked well loved and at least 20 years old. I gave mum Kylie Kwong’s “It Tastes Better”, an amazing celebration and exploration of the produce Kylie believes in. Ironically, I had put the book in an organic hessian bag printed with a message about telling your mum you love her and loving yourself and eating less red meat. But who could go by the chateaubriand. Red meat isn’t good for you in large quantities, but a little bit of red meat every now again, as long as it is the best possible quality, is good for the soul. I like living on the edge.

My husband, who can’t go past a good duck dish, ordered the duck a l’orage. Very sweet (in my opinion just a tiny bit too sweet) but deliciously sticky well cooked. There is a reason the French have combined duck with orange for hundreds of years (a bit like chocolate and orange, it is a marriage in heaven).

The desserts were also stuck in a time warp – we shared the chocolate mouse topped with some piped whipped cream and some profiteroles. Nice and pretty tasty and certainly authentic but not the highlight for me.

The menu is simple, short and authentic. French comfort food at its best.

Mere Catherine is BYO ($5 corkage). Bring along a robust red – a burgundy if you are feeling like splurging and upping the French experience a little. Mere Catherine don’t take cards (it really does feel like 20 years ago in the south of France) so be reasonably cashed up – 5 of us with 1 bottle of wine and three courses (although just 3 desserts between 5) was about $450. There is an ATM at the pub across the road, if like us you aren’t prepared.

Kamilla x

Ps I would have given Mere Catherine on the night, 3.5 stars (and I’m as tough as Margaret and David).

Not the prettiest looking dish but incredibly delicious. Probably the highlight of my night.

Potatoes - i just love that they came in the old cast iron pan they were cooked in.

Duck a l'orange.

Chateaubriand for 2.

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Categories: Restaurant Reviews

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One Comment on “Mere Catherine”

  1. Rob
    07/05/2012 at 5:48 pm #

    Hey Kam – I love that you’re doing this!
    I’ve walked past this place almost every day for the past 4 years and never been in – think that may have to change.

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