French cuisine became the apex of the culinary food chain over the last few hundred years. French cooking techniques are considered a necessity to learn in most cheffing schools and you will find most of the best chefs of the world have at one part of their career spent time either cheffing in France or in a French restaurant. Even the Guide Michelin and their Chef’s Hats, that decide who cooks the best food in the entire world, is French. So when you dine in a French restaurant you expect it to be good, but I didn’t expect our experience at BISTRO PAPILLON, in the Sydney CBD, to be this good.
BISTRO PAPILLON VENUE:
BISTRO PAPILLON is funky bohemian French in (perhaps mid 20th Century) design; dimly lit, floorboards, warm tones, wine everywhere, gorgeous waiters, risque artwork and snails molesting humans. What did you just say? The venue is definitely dressed to a bygone era, it felt like I should be able to smoke a cigar after my meal while sipping brandy and there really needs to be some live music being played in a corner. I immediately fell in love with BISTRO PAPILLON and it had more to do with the venue than our waiter. On a side note, single best looking waiter for 2018, both myself and my guest, Laarni, had jaws open and were spellbound by his accent “keep talking, keep talking.” Haha. But besides this remarkable man the venue has so much character I wanted to get drunk with it and hear its stories of hosting thousands of diners over the years.
The venue is near on perfect for scoring but the lighting was a tad too dark for my liking due to taking pics and the tables were too close together. The tables being close together fits in with the meaning of “bistro” but part of the meaning is also modest and cheaper, simple food…… BISTRO PAPILLON is not that cheap.
THE BISTRO PAPILLON STORY:
It was around the turn of the millennium when two Frenchmen became colleagues in the UK, working at a restaurant in Bath called ‘Beaujolais.’ Ludo in the kitchen and Xav front of house. It wasn’t long after, and a few wines later, they became best friends and the dream of opening a French restaurant in Sydney, Australia, began.
That dream became a reality in June 2010. The restaurant stuck to their vision and as such it has become and remained one of the most popular French restaurants in Sydney. We visited on a Monday night, by 630pm it was packed to the rafters.
THE AMAZING MENU OF BISTRO PAPILLON:
Shut them down, they don’t have frog’s legs haha. I always expect to see frog’s legs on a French menu but how on Earth would one acquire frog’s legs in Sydney? The first two items on the menu are 1) a baguette with salted butter and 2) Escargots. If nothing, behind frog’s legs, these have to be the single most known French foods in the world. Another omission from the menu was no Fois Gras, something I would have ordered if present.
The menu heavily leans to the traditional and ticks most of the boxes expected. The two items mentioned plus French Onion soup, Beef Tartare, Vol au Vents, Beef Bourguignon and two types of Cassoulet make up the more known meals. Their cheese selections will make your knees wobble and if you really want to live life to the fullest they offer a two course Raclette menu.
And as for dessert, sadly we did not partake but I have read the Classic Crème Brûlée is one of the best in the country and if that doesn’t float your boat then a Tarte Tatin or Profiteroles may make you happy.
They also take care of the gluten intolerant with an impressive Gluten Free menu which is basically the entire main menu made GF.
And finally drinks. They can make most traditional cocktails with some wonderful specialties in there and their entire wine list is French only. I enjoyed a lovely Bordeaux from Château Gantonnet with my mains. An impressive amount of wines are available by the glass.
WHAT WE DEVOURED:
- French Martini – Chambord, Vodka and Pineapple Juice
- Kir Royal – Champagne, Cassis and Peche
- La Norvegienne – Crème Fraîche, Onions, Hot Smoked Salmon, Leek and Goat Cheese
- Escargots de Bourgogne – Half-a-dozen Burgundy Snails baked in Garlic and Parsley Butter, served with Baguette
- Cassolette de Fruits de Mer au Chorizo – Barramundi, Mussel and Prawn Cassolette with Chorizo, Potatoes and Mediterranean Vegetables
- Medaillons de Porc aux Cèpes – Pork Tenderloin Medallions Wrapped in Pancetta, Porcini Mushrooms, White Wine, Cream and Spätzle
- Duck Fat Dauphine Potatoes
WHAT WE DROOLED OVER:
Drinks and Entrees:
We of course started with cocktails while taking the venue in and working out how to propose to the waiter without sounding creepy. I inhaled the French Martini and the pineapple juice in the martini added a wonderful crema to the top of the glass, would definitely order this again. Laarni said she enjoyed her Kir Royal but she never got around to finishing it, perhaps too dazzled by the waiter, or me for that matter haha.
The first food we had was the La Norvegienne, this is basically a pizza. Nos Tartes Flambées “Flammkuchen” – a Speciality from Alsace, thin baked bread dough covered with toppings. They have a few selections but we ordered the toppings of Crème Fraîche, Onions, Hot Smoked Salmon, Leek and Goat Cheese. This is a dish that flooded me with memories. One of the greatest pizzas I ever ate was about 20yrs ago at The Paddington Inn. It was smoked salmon, horseradish cream, red onion, capers and possibly goat’s cheese. It blew my mind so much I drove back in the next week to order it again and it was no longer on the menu, it was a special. Over the last 20yrs this has grown in my mind to be one of the greatest things I ever ate, mostly because I could never eat it again. The La Norvegienne was the closest pizza to that memory I have had.
I am no snail expert but the Escargots at BISTRO PAPILLON were marvellous. Good texture and a heavy garlic butter sauce, just what you expect. Serving it with a baguette was appreciated, we soaked up all that sauce!
The mains were as fantastic as the starters. The side we ordered of Duck’s Fat Cooked Dauphine Potatoes was divine, So crispy on the outer and fluffy on the inside. And basically anything cooked in duck fat is AMAZING!
Laarni enjoyed the Seafood and Chorizo Cassoulet and it was impressively packed with seafood. It tasted smooth and wonderfully flavoured but not too heavy. I tried one of the prawns and some chorizo and would happily order this one myself. But my main won out – it was the table favourite and I will have it on my pate again. Terrfically tender tenderloins wrapped in prosciutto then in a wine based mushroom sauce with a side of spätzle to dip in the sauce, I mean what’s not to love about this dish – it as heavenly! Spätzle is teeny tiny dough dumplings, not very flavoursome but perfect to soak up sauces.
We were actually quite full by the end of the two courses. We opted out of ordering dessert and this now makes me sad, quite a few people have raved about that Brûlée. But we have something to look forward to for next time.
If French food is your jam then BISTRO PAPILLON is your digs. Wonderfully bohemian mid 20th Century French in design and atmosphere with traditional food that impresses as much as the waitstaff. I will be returning to this place for more of the decadent cuisine all washed down with even more French wine and martinis.
SCORE BREAKDOWN: 3/3 food, 2/2 service, 1/1 drinks, 1/1 venue & ambience, 1/1 cost, 1/1 toilets and 0/1 bonus
BISTRO PAPILLON DEETS:
PH: (02) 9262 2402
98 Clarence St, Sydney NSW 2000
PRICING: The rib eye is the most expensive dish at $48.90
MONDAY TO FRIDAY | LUNCH & DINNER
SATURDAY | DINNER ONLY
SUNDAY | CLOSED
LOCAL DELIVERY: No
VEGETARIAN OPTIONS: Yes – minimal
GLUTEN FREE OPTIONS: Yes – they have an entire Gluten Free Menu
KID FRIENDLY: No
*** Spooning Australia dined as Guests of Bistro Papillon and Being Brands ***
For more reviews of Sydney CBD Restaurants – check them out HERE