47 Argyle St, The Rocks, Sydney, New South Wales
I’ve reviewed La Renaissance before, testing out their pork and veal sausage roll. But that’s not all they have on their menu, by a long shot. So it was natural that I should return to sample other wares of relevance to this blog.
Checking the shop’s history on their website, I find that this patisserie began in 1974, when a French pastry chef opened a shop in Roseville. The business subsequently moved to The Rocks in 1994, sited in an historical building built in 1842 (by an ex-Irish highway robber!), where it has been ever since. With this venerable history behind it, one would hope that the products have stood the test of time with their quality.
On this fine day, I sat in, and ordered the second type of sausage roll from the hot food menu, a pork, bacon, and fennel roll. And to follow, of course, one of the vanilla slices. The items are plated for me by a woman serving from behind a tall display counter, and I take them to a small cafe table in the flagstoned courtyard that extends out the back of the shop.
The sausage roll looks a little overcooked with a rich brown pastry with small pieces flaking off it already from the simple handling to place it on the plate. There is a smattering of sesame seeds on top, possible to visually distinguish the roll from the pork and veal version, which has none. The roll is a little on the small side, and the filling peeps coquettishly from deep inside the folds of the thick pastry, so visually this doesn’t appear to be particularly generous in the meat department.
On picking up and biting, the visuals are betrayed by a rich and buttery pastry, enfolding a beautifully juicy and flavoursome meat filling. The pastry is clearly the work of a French-influenced chef, with dozens of delicate layers and a melt-in-your-mouth butteriness, and it’s not as overcooked as it appears. It’s really good. And the filling doesn’t disappoint in the flavour stakes, though there could be a bit more of it. The meat is well seasoned and spiced, with flecks of grated carrot and green herbs throughout. The bacon adds a saltiness and the fennel a subtle aniseed flavour to complement the pork. It’s nice.
Moving to dessert, the slice comes served on an individual rectangle of cardboard, turned up slightly on either long edge, and emblazoned with the logo of La Renaissance. I remove this and examine the naked slice on the plate. It’s small, almost petite, you might say. It has three layers of crispy and flaky looking pastry, filled with a rich yellow, slightly gelatinous looking custard. The custard has several small black dots in it, indicating use of real vanilla beans – I hope. The top layer of pastry is topped with a simple dusting of white icing sugar.
The slice holds together reasonably well as I pick it up and take a bite. There is some custard ooze, but not a lot, and it’s straightforward to devour the slice without making too large a mess. As with the sausage roll, the pastry is wonderful, showing off the skills of genuine French pastry-work; it’s crisp and delightfully flaky, providing a good crunch to contrast with the custard. The custard has a slight reassuring home-made lumpiness, and a good creaminess and mouth feel. The main issue is the flavour, which is a bit bland and could definitely do with more vanilla. Overall, it’s decent, but just a bit small and lacking in the deep rich vanilla flavour one would have hoped for.
Pork, bacon, and fennel sausage roll: 8/10
Vanilla slice: 7/10