When you think of French cuisine, your mind typically races to snails, frog legs, and the sweet buttery crunch of a croissant. But my goodness, you truly haven’t experienced the best of what this fine food culture has to offer until you’ve stopped by the contemporary French haven that is Cliché Exhibition. The space boasts a quirky gallery appearance with moody lighting, decorative walls, and some of the most interesting architecture we’ve ever seen. You can’t help but dart your eyes back and forth over the interior; absorbing all the elements that combine to create the mid 90’s mod vibe that millennials fall for. It’s the kind of atmosphere that squeezes all the tension out of you after a long week—and the food only facilitates that feeling further.
We were lucky enough to experience an 8-course feast of delicately crafted meals that reflected a level of creativity and attention to detail that could only have derived from one of the world’s most famous art hubs. It took a lot of strength to break the beauty with a fork, but while they say not to judge a book by it’s cover, it’s fair to say it was love at first bite. So, the details…
To begin our journey through France, we had the warm and delicious house-made bread with fresh, herby butter. With a crunchy crust and soft, warm centre—it was everything you want in a gourmet loaf. We then tried one of the more unique items on the menu; Mild Spicy Tuna Tartare on house rice crackers, served with yuzu gel. The tart flavours, subtle spice and cut through of the sweet and citrussy yuzu gel were definitely a unique combination. But the result was delicious, and the crunch of the crackers set the meal apart from others we were about to try.
We then opted for the Chicken Teriyaki Skewers served with a sweet soy sauce, which won us over with the tenderness of the meat and the rich salty/sweet flavours.
Moving into another of the more intriguing dishes, we gave the Pork Jaw served with tapenade, yuzu gel & crispy pork crackling a try. While pork jaw doesn’t sound like the most desirable part of a pig, it boasted the texture of pork belly with a more intense bacon flavour that definitely made for a desirable dish. The olive tapenade and sweet yuzu gel made ideal companions on the plate; adding a mixture of consistencies to balance every bite.
We also tried the absolutely delectable Steamed Duck Confit and Herb Dumplings, with marinated mushrooms in a duck consommé. If you’re a dumpling fan, these are a must try! The silky mushrooms which were beautifully fanned out on the plate also paired perfectly.
Next we tried what became the favourite of the evening—the Lamb Cutlet with xo crumb miso and soy grazed baby carrots. The tenderness off the premium lamb cutlets wrapped in the delicate, yet flavour-filled crumb was absolutely delicious! After trying that dish, we didn’t necessarily expect the standards of the others to marry up…but the goodness continued.
We then tried the Charred Barramundi with umebosi butter and soy brown rice. The fish was cooked to perfection, and there was truly no better way to eat it then on a bed of flavour-infused buttery rice. While it didn’t initially strike me as a popular dish, it’s definitely worth a second (or third) run!
While completely immersed in the culinary zone, the next dish we tried was the Duck Breast served on a parsnip puree with spicy orange marmalade. For a meat that can turn out so wrong if the method is even slightly skewed, this duck was perfection. The parsnip puree and marmalade were the ideal side condiments; adding an appetizing creamy sweetness.
Last but not least of the savoury dishes came the Slowly Braised Beef Cheek in a port wine sauce, served with a wakame truffled mash potato. There’s something about the combination of succulent beef, a creamy mash and an indulgent brackish sauce that just works. The meat literally fell apart as you pulled it with the fork, and the richness of the port sauce added a nice textural contrast that made it melt in your mouth.
After just about cleaning up every dish so far, we just had to see what the desserts were all about. So, we tried all four dishes. First, we indulged in the Matcha Soufflé served with a side of mango ice cream. It was fresh from the oven; boasting the picture-perfect rise that is incredibly hard to achieve. The warmth and fluffiness of the soufflé combined with the cold tanginess of the ice-cream was absolutely mouth-watering.
Curious to try one of the more well-known traditional French dishes, we then tried the Lemon Creme Brûlée served with earl grey ice cream. This dish is bound to be a crowd-pleaser, with everything you could hope for in a traditional brûlée and more; with thanks to the honeycomb crunch on top.
After finally snapping back to reality, it was time to try probably one of the biggest table dividers of the evening: Goats Cheese Parfait with honeycomb. If you’re a lover of goats cheese, we definitely recommend you give this a try! The parfait is quite salty with a tangy finish, but the sweet crunch of the honeycomb re-balances the palette to make it quite an enjoyable dessert. It was also the most creatively presented; looking like something out of the Louvre.
To wrap up our culinary journey through France, we finished with the Apple Mille-Feuille served with caramelised apples. The different textures of each component and the fruity flavours from the variations of apple made this one all-round delicious. The meticulous detail in the presentation was also noteworthy.
So, is Paris truly the city of love? We believe so—because every meal had us falling further in love with Cliché. If you’re seeking a relaxed, yet fine dining experience in the city, make sure O’Connell St North Adelaide is your first stop!
Words by Kimberley Goodman
WHERE: 26 O’Connell St, North Adelaide