Rustic French countryside meets fine dining at The Provincial.
It’s a sleepy summer afternoon. A man strolls by with his two miniature pugs, concentration devoted to his IPhone. A glamorous couple are perched at a local cafe, engaging in quiet conversation. You’ll notice them sipping on lattes in the sunshine. There is not a breath of wind as the sun shines down. Arriving to The Provincial, everything feels calmer, slower, subtly opulent. It’s a refreshing change from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The Provincial is one of the latest developments in Rozelle’s recently redeveloped Union Place precinct. Not only will you find this new dining spot, but also an independent grocer, Italian coffee bar and bakery. Enveloping the whole area is a series of brand new apartments. Everything seems to have that shiny new feel.
The restaurant’s title perpetuates the idea of a simpler time. Farmers markets, buttery wines and picnics. This French countryside thematic shows itself in a number of ways. Bottles of wine gather dust in a dark stained timber wine rack. Recycled timber beams prop the white washed and charcoal painted space. Plush leather sofas make for alluring pre and post dining resting stops. Look closely to find French antiques scattered around the room offering the final embellishment to a clean colour palette.
It’s when you reach the menu however that this notion of rustic simplicity begins to shift. No where will you find a plate of Coq au vin served with hunks of bread for dipping or homemade galette with lashings of cream. Dishes at The Provincial are refined and cleverly calculated. Each dish is a celebration of the simplicity of good produce.
The brains behind this French chic inspired restaurant are brother’s Jean Paul, Joe Hawach and Johan Khoury. The Provincial came as an opportunity for them to pass on their family dining values and cooking philosophies to the customer. They first launched the venue quietly in December 2016, offering a set menu to locals and people in the know. The idea was simple, to test the waters and see where it may take them.
Our lunch begins with a round of cocktails. The list reads well, offering fresh and fruity concoctions such as Botanic Garden, made of distillery botanical gin, elderflower, mint and lemon ($17). Just below it you’ll spot the Peach Bellini, combining amanti prosecco and peach puree ($15). It then travels towards darker, more robust spirits such as Smoke Em’ Out, a combination of chilli tequila, Chartreuse, Ardbeg 10, pineapple, cucumber and agave ($18).
I am quickly drawn to the lighter end of the spectrum, ordering the Elderflower and Rhubarb Spritz ($15). It’s a simple but thirst quenching way to start the day. My glass is generously sized and topped with lots of ice.
My date seeks out something with a bit more punch, ordering the Boulevardier ($17). It’s a drink strongly reminiscent of a classical Negroni. The point of difference? Gin is substituted for Bulleit Rye, giving the cocktail a smokier, more malt infused nose and flavour.
Having taken the first sips our of cocktails, it’s hard to pass up the Sydney rock oysters served with passionfruit and ginger jelly, pickled fennel and yarra salmon roe (half dozen $18). Before even taking a bite, the dish is a visual feast. The natural orange of the salmon roe combined with the drops of passionfruit shine against the pearly shimmer of the shells. The crunch of the pickled fennel comes as a welcomed contrast to the smooth, creaminess of the freshly shucked oysters. With each slurp, the small tang of passionfruit gel energies the palate.
Another entree worth ordering is the scallops, served with sunchoke puree, watermelon radish, chicken crackling and a hazelnut vinaigrette ($17). I’m a sucker for chicken skin, and this dish doesn’t disappoint. The scallops are well caramelised and succulent. To make the most of each bite, we recommend getting a little bit of everything on your fork. Your date can forgive you cramming your mouth with food.
For mains I order the roasted spatchcock served under a shower of peas and bacon bits ($32). I marvel at the sculptural elements of the dish. The legs of this miniature bird stand proud on the plate, nestled in close to segments of sausage and larger pieces of meat. The sweetness of the peas juxtapose the saltiness of the bacon. The fattiness of the sausage contrasts the lean meat. Everything on this plate has a purpose.
The star of the show however is the Jacks Creek Wagyu Short Rib ($39). We did take a big gulp at the almost $40 price tag for the 250gm portion of meat. That being said, this is some of the best short rib we’ve ever tasted. The marbled wagyu has a soft melt-in-your mouth texture and the watermelon has a welcomed sweet and cooling effect on the tongue. Hidden underneath the short rib is a sticky smoky BBQ sauce, offering a little bit of heat. Truth be told, it’s hard not to pick the plate up and lick it clean.
A mostly European wine list has us dabbling in a glass Petit Chablis Chardonnay. As the saying goes, ‘when in Rome!’ Or France in this case. It makes for a delectable addition to the spatchcock. Although we didn’t sample any of the reds, a glass or two would have made the perfect pairing to the short rib.
The dessert menu lists four quite humbly named dishes: Roasted Pineapple, Marinated Strawberry, 70% Dark Chocolate and Roasted Peach (each $13). Humble in name yes, however humble in execution they are not!
Our friendly waiter recommends the 70% Dark Chocolate, infused with earl grey, green tea cake, tea soaked cherries and cherry sorbet ($13). When the dish comes out, the pop of colour from the cherry sorbet hits us instantly. Although the chocolate on it’s own is quite rich, it works well against the tartiness of the sorbet and earthiness of the green tea cake.
The Provincial offers the perfect balance of French countryside and culinary precision. Staff are personable and confident in their recommendations. In my humble opinion, it comes as a warm welcome addition to this affluent neighbourhood.
The Provincial have just released a special addition Valentines Day set menu. Haven’t made plans yet? It’s time to pay a visit and indulge in a little French romanticism.
Union Place, 124 Terry Street, Rozelle
02 9818 4411
Open Tuesday to Thursday 6-10pm, Friday 12-3pm and 6pm-10pm, Saturday and Sunday 11:30am-3pm and 6pm-10pm.