Given the only opportunity to sample some of the most accomplished French bistro food in the city is from 11:30 in the morning to 2:30 in the afternoon – after which the place closes – darn it – I tend to wander in to Benny’s for lunch with some regularity.
Scott Adams has been in charge of the kitchen at the back of The French Baker on Murray Street for ten years now, and though the environment is wanting – there’s a bit of a canteen feel about Benny’s – the standard of cooking is very high.
Adams’ lunch menu is sensibly short, bolstered with daily specials. Prices run in the $16 to $21 range, which might seem a bit much for lunch in an ordinary space, but the dishes represent good value and portions tend to be generous. Two standouts last week: one an addition to the menu and the other a comfort dish of scallops and bacon and beans.
Duck breast from Mariposa was perfectly pink and utterly luscious, sliced onto a blob of loose and buttery polenta and topped with a salad of Belgian endive, Treviso (red radicchio) and apple, the juicy tartness of which sliced through the creamy richness of the cornmeal porridge. And look how pretty…
The second dish had four bronzed scallops resting on three slabs of bacon braised in apple cider. Next to this bit of pleasure, a fragrant cannellini bean purée, topped with some wilted kale studded with toasted pistachios and crowned with crispy leek.
For dessert, think patisserie: pear and almond tart, lemon tart, choux puffs, éclairs. You really must and you really can’t go wrong.