Armorica Grande Brasserie Review: Surry Hills’ Swanky New Destination
— Updated on 16 November 2023

Armorica Grande Brasserie Review: Surry Hills’ Swanky New Destination

— Updated on 16 November 2023
Chris Singh
Chris Singh

Restaurateur Andrew Becher is clearly a fan of those splashy dining rooms you’d find dotted all across Western Europe. He has seen great success in Potts Point with Franca Brasserie, and more recently with Parlar. Now he has set his sights on conquering Surry Hills with the swanky Armorica Grande Brasserie, which opened earlier this April.

Surry Hills hasn’t seen an opening this extravagant for a very long time. My first visit was for a party hosted by the famed members-only club Soho House and Porsche, which should tell you quite a lot about the atmosphere. It’s expensive. It feels exclusive. It feels important. And, it feels super timely: given Sydney’s recent spate of high-profile openings including Palazzo Salato, The Charles and Clam Bar.

Fortunately, all I care about is the quality of the food. And on that front, for the most part, Armorica delivers.

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You’ll find all the usual suspects on the oversized one-page menu once you sink into those statement-making leather banquettes. Oysters with Champagne mignonette, foie gras, caviar, wagyu. Your eyes will no doubt land straight on the steak frites but there are plenty of other tempting options leaning towards classic flavour profiles.

The simple dishes are undoubtedly the venue’s best. The Murray Cod ($50) with salsa verde and guindillas is about as perfect and consistent as I could have wanted, packed with plenty of fresh flavours. I have little doubt that the various steak options are satisfying at the very least, but Armorica does statement-making seafood mains so well that I’m still inclined to shy away from the proverbial land on subsequent visits.

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The rest of what I tried was a mixed bag. Brioche donuts with caviar cream are a nice idea ($195/$320) and while I appreciate that they aren’t overwhelmingly heavy, they are outrageously priced on account of the caviar — which really doesn’t add much to the experience. It’s a show-and-tell order, little more. Clearly, executive chef Jose Saulog, his team, and their prized Josper grill handle natural flavours much better.

On the raw side of things: some coral trout crudo ($26) with finger lime and just the right amount of chilli hits all kinds of spots. The octopus roulade ($22), however, doesn’t quite stick the landing (both in terms of taste and serving size). The idea is great: octopus so finely sliced that it forms a kind of blanket around a more dicey serving of octopus. Yet there’s too much parsley on top and the two flavours absolutely do not work well together.

Thankfully, the meal ends on a high note. Pastry chef Travin DeHoedt is proud of his Armorica Chocolate Bar ($26) and rightfully so: the quintessential bookend to any feast here and already a crowd favourite. DeHoedt has taken Valrhona’s Kalingo 65% dark chocolate and turned it into an extravagant gold bar that cracks open to reveal a blend of chocolate mousse, salted caramel and a very lightly crisped chocolate chip cookie base. Lovers of dark chocolate will be enamoured.

Armorica Grande Brasserie feels a lot like it should be located in the CBD around the financial district; and yet there’s something strangely appropriate about such a ritzy dining room joining the chorus of hipster-casual eateries that line Crown Street.

Conceivably, you could get away with ordering one or two small plates and a glass of wine, but there’s just something about Armorica that makes you want to spend money. The menu is certainly a factor: these are not prices you want to see against the backdrop of our increasingly alarming economy; yet they are exactly what you can expect the moment you set eyes on the gilded, elegant $3 million interior (one which makes appropriate use of bright Italian marble and stunning works by American illustrator David Plunkert).

Armorica certainly has the requisite sense of occasion going for it; and I’d imagine its central appeal is on Friday nights when a live jazz bar hits the deck. To me though, it feels like a mid-week restaurant: destined for big client buy-outs when you want an inner-city alternative to classic swank-stitutions like The Gidley, Shell House and Hubert.

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Chris Singh
Chris is a freelance Travel, Food, and Technology writer. He has had work published by The AU Review, Junkee Media and Australian Traveller Media and holds tertiary qualifications in Psychology and Sociology.


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