The Light Brigade Dining Room and Bar, that stylish Sydney eastern suburbs institution, has sat still for a makeover. Now it’s ready to jump again. By Greg Barton
If the women of Sydney have been wondering all this time where the city’s best powder room is located, they can finally give up the search. It’s on the third floor of the newly renovated Light Brigade Dining Room and Bar. I know this because I accidentally walked in there during my recent visit, mistaking it for a swanky cocktail lounge.
It’s an easy mistake to make. Comfy couches everywhere, beautifully dressed women swanning about (this is Woollahra after all), graceful furnishings, huge mirrors . . . the place is a palace. Of course the men’s room is just a men’s room. Outrageous. But that made sense once I thought about it: downstairs, the Light Brigade is a sports bar. An extremely stylish and well-appointed sports bar, but a sports bar nonetheless. And when it’s big-screen-TV-time (which is often), the women patrons like to know there’s a place for them to hang out. We get the big TVs, they get the unbelievable bathroom. It was always thus.
So, heading up the creaking flight of stairs that smell vaguely of a villa in Spain for some reason, you’ll find yourself in the Art Deco dark-wood panelled restaurant, which sets off the clean white on every other service. What looks like grand windows are actually more like discreet French Doors, leading to tiny balconies for the guilty to sneak smokes between courses. The entire complex is still under development; plans for higher floors include the establishment of a champagne bar – and even a rooftop terrace with glimpses of the Harbour Bridge. Which is saying something, coming from this far inland in Woollahra.
The pace of an evening here is brisk. The young man who shows us to our table, within the space of only a few pleasant enquiries, has worked out what kind of day we’ve had and has divined the need for bread, olive oils and wine as quickly as possible. The first two arrive instantly; the third takes longer – but only because the wine list is fully six pages long. It’s a stunning selection; bubblies, reds, whites, stickies . . . more than 200 local and international drops, with easily 30 available by the glass. I’m from Perth and in a WA mood so we go with something from there: a Ferngrove Symbols cab merlot. Simple but very yummy.
For entrée, my partner doesn’t hesitate. In fact she’s already looked the menu up online and has been anticipating the Duck Liver Parfait for some time. It in no way disappoints her, and probably only increases her anticipation for the Roast Rabbit Saddle wrapped in pancetta on a celeriac puree that she’s locked in for mains. That last was thanks to two things: firstly, her mum cooked rabbit for her one time and she loved it; and secondly, because our waitress pointed out correctly that celeriac isn’t in season for much longer – so get now while the getting’s good.
I trust implicitly a waitress who knows the seasonal patterns of celeriac, so it’s with confidence that I accept her entrée recommendation of the soft calamari filled with herbs. It fights a little with the wine, but that’s hardly the calamari’s fault. My next move is a better one from a wine-matching standpoint: char-grilled beef fillet with potato rosti and sautéed spinach, onion and red wine jus. With salmon, rabbit and lamb all on the menu, the beef is a little pedestrian of me, perhaps – but I’m a sucker for the words “potato rosti” and let’s face it, everyone loves a jus. One rocket and parmesan salad later and we’re ready to contemplate dessert and coffee.
(Quick aside: it wasn’t until I visited a newly revamped Crowne Plaza hotel and checked out their “Body & Soul” room service menu that I realised the horrible truth about my favourite salad, the good old rocket and parmesan. Crowne Plazas now do this thing where they list the fat and calorie content of their menu items. Have you seen how bad rocket and parmesan salad is for you? It’s like having a hamburger on the side. And I thought I was being healthy. Back to the review.)
For dessert, the Light Brigade tasting plate is very difficult to crawl past. I’m sure it varies, but we were treated to a mascarpone (not my taste — take it or leave it) accompanying a huge martini truffle-type concoction, a wonderful pavlova, loads of berries and fruit garnishes, and basically the self-saucing chocolate pudding version of a triple-cream brie – to die for.
One last comment I’ll make about the very tasty food and very competent and friendly wait staff: good service needn’t mean everything on time or everyone jumping to fulfil your slightest whim. Delays will occur in any restaurant, period. It’s how they’re dealt with that sets a place and its staff apart. We shared our corner of the dining room with a huge table seating perhaps 15 partygoers – victims of a late cancellation elsewhere, who were able to call the Light Brigade with just an hours’ notice and be cheerfully accommodated. Their presence, of course, meant a slight disruption to the speed of delivery for everyone else in the place. But this was explained quickly and politely by our waitress, so, end of problem. If you’re kept informed, there’s far less harm done and everyone can get on with the business of enjoying the fine dining and ambience.
How many times have you been disappointed by something similar? All it takes is being spoken to with consideration before you leave to rectify any problem – big or small. An easy policy to maintain and one that, to their credit, the Light Brigade certainly doesn’t ignore.
DETAILS // The Light Brigade
2a Oxford St, Woollahra, Sydney. Open for lunch on Saturday & Sunday 12 pm- 4pm, or dinner Tuesday to Sunday 6pm-10pm.
Phone // (02) 9331 2930
Website // www.lightbrigade.com.au