LIZ LOVE EATS OUT: Made by Lesley Taylor 

ONE thing is certain; Lesley Taylor doesn’t let the grass grow under her very busy feet.

After a very eventful year which saw the closing of the one hatted Restaurant Deux in order to concentrate on the bistro style Le Petit Deux, followed by its dinner time opening as Le Petit Deux la Nuit, it was time to leave the strictly French focus behind in order to allow for more creativity and experimentation.

You can take the girl out of France but you can’t take France completely out of the girl, and what remains is the trademark impeccable technique, a sure hand when it comes to sauces, and a commitment to locally sourced, seasonal ingredients.

The space has been revamped; it’s amazing how much room has been added by merely removing the ramp at the front and relocating the entrance to the side.

NCH WEEKENDER – Liz Love restaurant review Made By Lesley Taylor 14th July 2013. picture by Ryan Osland

NCH WEEKENDER -Made By Lesley Taylor – Liz Love restaurant review 14th July 2013. picture by Ryan Osland

NCH WEEKENDER – Liz Love restaurant review Made By Lesley Taylor 14th July 2013. picture by Ryan Osland

This allows for better table spacing and greater privacy for diners, so that even with bare tables and wooden floors it’s possible to carry on a conversation even when the place is full.

I love that good bread and butter arrive almost as soon as we sit down. The service is efficient and attentive although there’s only one person on the floor. Water glasses are topped up regularly; wine by the glass is poured at the table.

One particularly French detail that has been retained is the amuse bouche; tonight it’s a tiny slice of perfectly seared tuna complemented by crisp kale, aioli, fine fennel fronds and fried capers.

Even if you are an offal denier you must try the sautéed duck hearts. These meaty little numbers are spiced with cumin and come with perfectly cooked caramelised onions, braised witlof, crunchy snow peas and piquant capers.

Then there are three silky tortellini filled with sweet blue swimmer crab waiting to be bathed in an intensely flavoured seafood bisque.

A few dots of avocado puree and a spoonful of avruga “caviar” complete a well balanced entree.

A decent slab of snapper has been quickly seared then finished in the oven. An uneven thickness meant that this was slightly overcooked one side, but there is nothing wrong with the crunchy skin nor the iodine rich clam veloute, white beans, crumbed razor clams and slivers of locally foraged crisp, green samphire.

Beef short ribs have been braised long and slow to melt in the mouth perfection, then pressed and finished in the oven, the deep, dark jus poured at the table. There’s a surprise on the top – an escargot and mushroom-filled croquette. Caramelised half baby onions, roast carrot and celeriac two ways make this a complex, richly earthy, wintery dish.

There are just three desserts; white chocolate custard with liquorice ice cream, poached pear and deep-fried meringue, dark chocolate marquise with toffee shards, berries and couli, and apple fritters.

It’s winter, so you can’t go past the fritters. A square, white plate is dominated by a bed of spiced crumbs supporting a sparkling ball of bright green toffee which shatters to reveal a tangy apple sorbet providing a suitable foil for the fritters (two battered apple wedges) and tiny cubes of almond cake and apple jelly. A quenelle of whipped cream rounds it all off.

And even better, it’s all made by Lesley Taylor.

What: Made by Lesley Taylor

Where: 27 King Street, Newcastle: 49292323

Chef/owner: Lesley Taylor

Wines: Hunter Valley, French, other Australian; 11 by the glass. BYO, $7 per bottle corkage.

Vegetarian: One entrée.

Bottom line: Entrée, main and dessert, $146 for two without drinks.

Wheelchair access: Reasonable with a couple of steps into side passage.

Do try: Sautéed duck hearts, cumin, snow peas, braised witlof, glazed onions, capers.

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