Hemingway’s in Manly, when it opened, became pretty much the first full-blown hipster joint in Manly and then it settled into becoming an institution, the must visit place for twenty-somethings to sip cocktails and gin and tonics while eating chicken nuggets and salt and vinegar crisps white bread sandwiches. Prior to Hemingway’s it was once my favourite venue known as The Barking Frog, I even hired the entire venue for my 35th party and it was the best party I have ever had, totally rocked and blew my budget for years of birthdays to follow. The Barking Frog rocked, Hemingway’s rocked the hipster world for quite a while and then the owners sold it.
They sold it to a French couple, Sonia and Emmanuel Deleuze, who have kept it looking the same, kept the name the same and over the last year have been weening it away from the hipster menu to one also incorporating what they are good at and what they are known for on the slopes of Val Thorens, in Les Trois Vallées in the French Alps (where their other restaurant is located), traditional French cuisine.
Through a chance Facebook post I was invited (with guest) to try out the venue and to look into their new menu and the venue itself, I think the hipsters are dwindling and are confused that it isn’t once what it seems, how can they not order Salt and Vinegar crisps on white bread? Do not fret, the chicken nuggets have remained. Now James and I discussed, debated and drank a fair bit while sampling and discussing the venue, at times with our fantastic host, Sonia Deleuze.
How could this place become huge again? James and I agree on a simple solution – change the venue – it is no longer Hemingway’s so change the name, that alone will make people come and try it because it will be new again – now – based on the “Hemingway’s” theme I have suggestions: 1: Dumas or Dumas’ – this will keep with the theme of famous authors with this one being French and 2: (my fave) Sur La Plage (“On the Beach” in French). The Deleuze’s other restaurant is “on the snow” in Val Thorens – embrace that and carry it to the new venue in the extreme opposite of surrounds…at sea level.
To go with the name change we also agreed the place should completely drop the Hemingway’s section of food, don’t ween the people off, cut them off, go complete French. There is NO French restaurant in Manly, embrace it. We ate only the French section of the menu and most of it was delicious. It embraces a sense of traditional, at times this could be seen as “standard” but it doesn’t all have to be gastronomy, people will also appreciate the comfort of traditional.
We started with a delightful Brumont’s Gros Manseng, a blended French white wine that was just delightful, we both were salivating over it. I have always loved how Hemingway’s embraces books and the menus are stuck inside full sized complete books and you flick to find – LOVE IT!!
Our wine was perfectly matched with two dishes – the first a Tarte Flambee ($15-), this is a cheeseless pizza with marinated onions and bacon, for me it tasted like a French onion soup pizza and I loved it. A light and refreshing starter and great alternative to garlic bread.
This came with a Salad Nicoise ($18-) and this was completely traditional, the first words out of my mouth – “standard” – nothing screamed love to me but for a healthy, and I would gather paleo, lunch meal this would be ideal, especially with that Gros Manseng :).
Much love to our host, Sonia, she was lovely and with her husband on the Alps opening their snow restaurant this week the family is very busy, but at least they are doing what they love and what a best of both worlds they have with surf and snow, my envy is peaking.
Our mains were incredibly impressive. We started with the Steak Tartare with fries and salad ($27-). I have only eaten Steak Tartare a couple of times and while I enjoyed it James has eaten it plenty of times at various places around the world and he lost his culinary-shit over it calling it “the best I have ever eaten!” It was beautiful with a little scoop of it on the garlic bread and those fries – perfecto!!
Accompanying the Steak Tartare was the Braised Lamb with Vegetables of the day ($26-). In my technical terminology – OMG!!! It had the consistency of butter and was sublimely flavoured, it looks better suited to a winter meal but I did not find it heavy and would be comfortable ordering this in summer also. We both scoffed at it including kale, something most Manly people would be excited over as it’s the “it” vegetable to order. Funnily enough, while I loathe the stuff, it worked well with the lamb and I devoured it. I am not a fan of cauliflower so James scored all of that and we both fought over the roasted potatoes.
With the mains Sonia served us a CHÂTEAU MONT-REDON Côtes du Rhône – and just WOW – the lady knows how to match wines, this was like liquid silk and perfectly matched the lamb. I gave the rest of my white to James as once I got a taste of the Côtes du Rhône I wanted nothing else. I could re-visit this place for that wine alone.
And just when the belly was stretching to max out came the desserts accompanied with cocktails – cannot clearly remember the cocktail names but one of was Vodka based and one was Tequila based, coincidentally I loved the Vodka one and James loved the Tequila one, the cocktails were exceptionally made and if I didn’t have to work the next morning I think James and I would have spent a fair bit of cashola purchasing a few more of these.
The cocktails slid down nicely with a Pain Perdu (brioche French toast, vanilla ice-cream and strawberries) ($12-) and a Crème brûlée ($12-). Both desserts were nice but again both very traditional, I wanted a thicker crust on top of the Crème brûlée (we both had to crack half of the top each afterall) and the Pain Perdu desperately needed a drizzle of maple syrup.
Wine, cocktails, service and location are all flawless, the food is about 80% French while maintaining some old Hemingway’s favourites. I urge Sonia and Emmanuel to change the venue name (my suggestions are both brilliant of course :)) and change the decor to match your style, make it the beach to your already operating snow restaurant. And while the food is great, dump the old Hemingway’s food and go full French.
I will return on my own coin over summer for another meal, I thoroughly enjoyed myself – on another note you don’t have to just visit for a three course meal, hit the place up for cocktails and/or wine with a small snack (go the Tarte Flambee), it is one of the best pieces of beachfront on the Northern Beaches after all.
Thanks to Sonia and Emmanuel and a further thanks to Deborah Dickson-Smith for introducing us.
***My meal for the night was covered by the venue***