September 16, 2013 Beirut Lebanon Middle East

Sydney's: The Come Back... A Simple Yet Refined Culinary Experience

Phone Number: +961 1 368 800

Address:

Website: http://www.levendomebeirut.com/restaurants.php?id=1

Price Range: 60-80 $

Most of us have; at least, one memorable moment spent at Sydney's - the first cigar lounge to open in Lebanon in 1996. Sydney’s, which closed for the last couple of months, has reopened with a new look. The same English style fine and classy decoration refurbished to follow the latest trends, and being able to identify to a younger clientele as well as keep their loyal customers comfortable.
 
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Sydney's, located on the last floor of Le Vendome Hotel is, once again, a gathering point for both the young and old generation. The place is busy and ready to welcome guests starting 6am with a unique continental breakfast, followed with lunch, afternoon coffee and tea, then of course comes a romantic or business dinner, depending on your mood. Any minute in between, you're welcome to come in and enjoy the whole new set up...
 
With a panoramic vista across the Mediterranean Sea, Beirut's famous Corniche and the city's skyline, Sydney's offers a fantastic menu in charming surroundings that never close. Named as a tribute to its first manager John Sydney, Sydney's has remained one of the most fashionable entertaining destinations in Beirut since it opened in 1996. Celebrated for great food, drinks and wonderful cocktails, all of which can be enjoyed with a spectacular view over the Mediterranean Sea.
 
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Arrive to Hotel Le Vendome Beirut, take the elevator to the 12th floor and be welcomed by a hostess who will accompany you to a table of your preference with a constant smile on her face. The white wallpapers are enough to make you smoothly smile. Here you know that the change is huge.
 
Waiters, in white shirts, white aprons and black pants take over, preparing you for a culinary experience that was just starting. Choosing to sit on the extreme left, around the square tables over viewing the Beirut sea-walk as well as the open sea marine activity, we were offered two eye candy plates that only prepared us for the best that was yet to come.

Lunch started with two plates, silver one filled with carrots, cucumbers, Edamame with cocktail sauce and olive tapenade and another with six silver skewers of tomatoes, olives and almonds.

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Waiting for the plates we ordered, I laid back and enjoyed the beautiful new interior:
  • An old English style with a touch of modernism
  • Red, black and white are three colors used extensively around the lounge
  • Red, dark blue and black leather sofas are all very relaxing
  • A space divided into five different seating areas (the bar, the winter room on the right, the dining room on the left, the buffet area, the inner corridor, the outer alley of tables and the terrace)
  • Take the corridor to the left to reach the buffet room followed by the dining room with its dark blue sofas
  • The main seating area with its square and rectangular tables and beige chairs
  • Outside is totally different with light colored chairs set up on a wooden parquet floor
  • The inner floor is covered with a Scottish carpet adding the needed warmth and luxury (Red, blue, green and yellow)
  • All the paintings have been replaced with newer designs
The little details I loved:
  • Peugeot salt and pepper mills are placed on all the tables
  • Fine cutlery from Guy Degrenne
  • The amuses bouches are very tasty: Crunchy lemony green olive with a fine crunch of the almonds and a fresh aftertaste of the tomatoes after their explosion in your mouth
  • Bread and butter are served in a design plate
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A unique culinary experience: Simplicity with a refined touch:
  • Caesar Salad: (Charred baby romaine, Grana Padano shavings, grilled chicken, cherry tomatoes) 36,000L.L.
A perfect combination of the chicken, served with toasted bread slices -not croutons- sucrine lettuce, green lettuce, and cherry tomatoes and shaved cheese. Yes, believe it, this upscale version of the Caesar salad has no garlic and is unique on all fronts. Fresh and crunchy lettuce, tender and juicy chicken along the other ingredients blend together to create a unique salad.
 
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  • Spicy Tuna Tacos: (Tuna tartare with yuzu, crispy tortilla and avocado cream) 24,000L.L
Four tacos on a bed of shredded carrots, served with two lemon slices. Small tacos, folded in half and filled with a tuna puree preparation. A pastry dough that crunches with style followed by reddish filling that caresses your palate revealing its many flavours. A thin guacamole sauce decorates the sandwiches giving the additional unique seasoning and upscale style. That's two thumbs up deserved. Sydneys_Vendome_Restaurant_Lounge_Beirut_Lebanon069
  • White Fish Cakes: (Spring vegetables, Sichuan pepper, wasabi, teriyaki sauce) 28,000L.L.
Three rolls, decorated with cucumber and thin slices of carrots. A 10cm circular UFO-shape, 1cm thick filled with shredded shrimps and vegetables. Served with pink ginger, this creation is beautiful. It's a nice plate but a bit too spongy and oily for my taste. From everything we had today, this is my least favourite. Sydneys_Vendome_Restaurant_Lounge_Beirut_Lebanon052
  • Sydney's Burrata: (Heirloom tomatoes, basil, extra virgin olive oil, aged balsamic reduction) 48,000L.L.
Mmmmm!! Premium burrata, tomato, cherry tomatoes of different sizes decorated with basil. Pepper crunches under your teeth to make of this preparation a unique one. Simply Wow. The lemon, olive oil and basil combination seasoning the mix make it a fine dining platter. Using Heirloom tomatoes is a good choice, adding a one-of-a-kind sweetness to the plate.
 
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  • Lentil Salad: (Grilled asparagus, string beans, Heirloom cherry tomato, balsamic dressing) 28,000L.L.
Lentils, tomato, Parmesan, asparagus, mustard leaves, rockets. A strong lemon/salty sparkle embraces the lentil and many vegetables that accompany it. Cooked aldente, this is definitely more than a simple salad... A piece of art in a dish.
 
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  • Quinoa Salad: (Sugar snap beans, marinated baby shrimps, hazelnut oil, micro leaves) 23,000L.L
Crunchy pine nuts, soft tender quinoa, rocket leaves and shrimps that melts like butter combined with green beans ending the experience with a sumptuous sweetness provided by the dried cherries. Shallots are used in minimal quantities adding a pleasant flavour. Oh my God! I officially love quinoa... No I mean this quinoa salad!
 
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  • Chef's Risotto: The signature Beetroot risotto 32,000L.L.
WOW! That's something every human being should taste to appreciate what real cuisine is like. Cooked aldente, the rice embracing the beetroot flavour is exceptional. Left as is without colouring and seasoned with balsamic reduction, this plate made me smile.
 
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  • Filet Slider: (Sliced Australian beef tenderloin, caramelized onions, horseradish cream, house smoked ketchup, Parmesan, fries) 41,000L.L.
Between a brioche and pain au lait bun with rare meat stuffed inside like butter this is a premium treat. A slice of lettuce, caramelised onions and premium Australian beef... I loved the crunchy layer of bread that adds a fine touch on the palate. The horseradish sauce also adds a premium taste to those sandwiches.
 
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  • Sydney's Burger: (Flamed wagyu beef, sesame bun, wedge potato, truffle aioli with cheddar cheese) 36,000L.L.
One of the best meats in town is unfortunately stuffed into a cheap spongy unappetising sesame bun. Please change the bun and you will be proud of having the best fine star dining burger in Lebanon. A deceiving plate that only needs a little fine tuning to become perfect
 
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  • Tuna Sandwich: (Five cereals bread, fontina cheese, fresh tomato, salad leaves, French fries) 28,000L.L.
The five cereals bread is produced by "Le Notre" and imported specially from Paris for your enjoyment. A homemade tuna mix, think tomato slices, a green lettuce and fontina cheese is all what makes this sandwich memorable. A presentation worth a painting that just makes your mouth water before even digging into it!
 
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  • Sydney's Club: (Five cereals bread, sliced chicken, hard boiled eggs, basil mayonnaise, Parmesan fries with Pork bacon) 32,000L.L.
One of the best Clubs I've had to date. An eye candy sandwich that activates three of your senses before even plunging into it. A beautiful presentation and majestic colours hide one or the best club sandwich in town. Green frize lettuce, thin slices of eggs, crunchy bacon and thin tomatoes with a premium chicken, constitute a piece of art. A soft and tender juicy chicken is the piece de resistance fit inside a crunchy pain de campagne covered with an awesome mustard sauce. Incredible
 
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What an amazing lunch! Taking a break before desserts, I had the chance to meet the joyful duo behind Sydney's culinary success. Executive Chef Georges Mansour and Pastry Chef Pierre Abi Haila.
 
Chef Georges started cooking at the age of 17 at "Au Premier" restaurant which used to occupy the 1st floor of Le Vendome. Today 33 years old only, Chef Georges has been the Executive Chef of Intercontinental Le Vendome for the last two years. With an extensive background and experience with more then 22 Michelin starred chefs to date, Chef Georges has a lot to show the Lebanese picky clientele. He is always trying to create new and innovative dishes and bringing Lebanon a finer touch in every plate. A simple and intelligent person full of passion, Chef Georges is behind a crew of 17 people in the kitchen reproducing and mastering the Sydney's menu on a daily basis. "I find myself in the French gastronomic cuisine," Georges tells me and when I asked him what is the plates that represents him best, he proudly said without hesitation: "The Beetroot Risotto." I tasted it and understood why. A story of a lifetime in a single plate joining together the east and west with style.
 
Chef Pierre, handling the desserts part is today 26 years old. He has been working with Intercontinental for the last 6 years. An artist and a master creator, Chef Pierre's plates talk for themselves. Beautifully decorated and filled with passionate ingredients, Pierre has a bright future you'll see from the very first minutes you sit with him. Which plate would represent you, I asked: "I love the creme brûlée."  Just look at the creme brûlée and you'll understand. A painting in a plate. "I learn a lot from the European cuisine, but like to always add my touch and make plates fit into the Lebanese culture. The only problem I face everyday is the availability of products on the market," Pierre tells me.
 
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Let's find out about Pierre's work:
  • Creme Brûlée Tartlet (Strawberry confit) 18,000L.L. What a beautiful plate! Crunchy biscuit, sweet filling, fruits decoration and crunchy caramelized sugar. A bit too sweet for my taste, but still this dessert is a must try for sure.
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  • Apple Crumble (Caramel sauce, vanilla ice cream) 20,000L.L. Premium apples, cooked and soaked caramel, they are all covered with a fine biscuit and a premium vanilla ice cream. What a premium creation. Two thumbs up!
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  • Fruit Salad (Sydney's touch) 16,000L.L. This is my favorite. You would say: "16,000L.L for a fruit salad?" YES... I would pay even more. A pineapple carpaccio covering a fine selection of tropical fruits and decorated with pomegranate. How grand. When served, a couli is poured on top adding the needed majestic flavors and aromas.
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The pluses:
  • Pepsi and Coke, choose your favourite
  • Sohat glass bottles make the experience even classier
  • The club sandwich presentation is unique
  • The plates are so beautiful and mouthwatering
A place that was the talk of the town since 1996 is back again to serve guests with good food in a nice, modern, relaxing and grand set up that will attract both young and old clientele. Come by anytime of day, in any mood you're in and get ready to be pampered all the way...

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