Almost overnight, in the space where the once excellent coffee focused cafe Flavours of Lakhoum used to be, a suave new restaurant called Noir appeared. With virtually no media attention at all, hardly any reviews on the web, and only about 3 weeks of being in operation, it’s 35 – 40 seats have pretty much been booked solid all weekend. Quite impressive – such is the power of Word Of Mouth.
Peter Roddy, who has worked at many restaurants across the globe, including Gordon Ramsay’s ill-fated Amaryllis in Dublin, and Michael Roux Jr’s Le Gavroche in London, is the Chef and owner. He has created a nice little space, the black (noir) walls and polished wooden tables giving it a classy, distinctly Richmond kind of feel.
With too many good looking things to choose from on the hand written menu, we decided it was for the best that we ordered the “Surprise Tasting Menu for the Whole Table” ($70 pp). The number of dishes might change from night to night – on our visit, we ended up with 9 courses, not including bread. For the thrifty people out there, that’s an insane $7.78 per course!
Arriving with our VOSS sparkling mineral water ($10) were some thin slices of baguette, which came with some nice salty butter and a thyme, garlic and parmesan infused olive oil.
The first true course was “Oysters with Champagne Sorbet” – although it gave us both a brain freeze (the oysters were quite big, so there was quite a lot of sorbet on top), it was a nice start to the meal.
The next dish was the “Duck Rillette with Onion Consomme”. We were encouraged to eat the rillette first, then cleanse our palates with the consomme. The rillette was one of the better ones I’ve had, and the onion consomme – complete with a small crouton – was almost port-like in consistency. Yum!
“Eye Fillet of Beef Tartare with Waldorf Salad and Crisp Bread” was the next to grace our table – the perfectly cooked quail egg added a delicate, almost fatty touch. The waldorf salad was crisp, refreshing, and nicely presented.
The next dish of the evening was the “Ocean Trout cured in Hendricks Gin with Cucumber, Juniper and Rose”. Beautifully presented, the trout had a nice, subtle gin flavour, and there was a nice hint of dill in the dish too. I didn’t get much of a sense of the rose, but it was well balanced nonetheless.
The “Crisp Belly of Pork with Sticky Wine, Apricots, Peas and Prawns” had textbook perfect crispy skin, and the acidity of the poached apricots cut through the pork fat nicely. I really liked the addition of the prawns and the peas.
“Caremelised Atlantic Scallops with Oxtail Tortellini, Cauliflower and Tomatoes” arrived next, and by now we were starting to get a bit full. The tortellini was full of nice braised meaty goodness, the scallops perfectly seared – the tomato providing the acidic lift required. The cauliflower was perhaps a tad salty though, as the tortellini filling was already seasoned heavily enough.
The final savory course of the night was a big one – “Eye Fillet of Beef with Bacon Lardons, Fondant Potatoes, Button Mushrooms, Caremelised Shallots, and a Thyme Jus”. Again, it was all beautifully cooked, but I’m not sure it needed the bacon lardons. Perhaps it was because we had eaten so much at this point though. The thyme jus was quite delicate, and brought out a sweetness in the beef.
“Roquefort Cheese with Apricot Paste, Crisp Bread, Apples and Walnuts” was probably not the best thing to follow up all this food – although it was great cheese, it would have been nice to get something a bit lighter – perhaps a palate cleanser of sorts – after the rich beef.
The last dish of the night was the “Creme Brulee with Dried Apple Crisps and Cucumber Soup”. Again, probably a little bit too rich for us at this stage of the night, but it was a decent creme brulee nonetheless. The presentation of this dish was interesting to say the least!
Noir is an impressive package – even in it’s initial phase the service is warm, competent, and relaxed, and the food mostly hits the mark. It’s currently BYO only ($5 corkage until their liquor license is approved) which, combined with the insane menu prices, makes for a reasonably cheap night out for the caliber of food being served.
It’s a welcome addition to the slowly growing list of classy Richmond establishments. We won’t hesitate to eat there again, but, I feel we will be battling with other locals to secure our spot!