When Eurocentric CBD bistro Chancery Lane was announced, Scott Pickett promised us old-world opulence, and he’s delivered. It hits you the moment the doors open and your eyes adjust to the dim lighting and you see checkerboard tiles and wall of spirits on an arched, backlit shelf.
Design studio Bergman & Co has transformed the space – in the historic Normanby Chambers, which was home to Vue de Monde before it moved into the Rialto. On one side, there’s a sleek deep-green marble bar and dramatic arched floor-to-ceiling windows. On the other, a darker and more intimate space with cosy leather banquettes and views of the kitchen, while candelabras add to the extravagance. The powder room is similarly stunning, with antique brass fixtures, the same marble encasing the sink and gold detailing all along the walls.
To match the heritage-listed site and opulent fit-out, Pickett enlisted the culinary expertise of Rob Kabboord, who was behind the now-shut neo-bistro Lekker in the Hotel Windsor. Before that he ran fine diner Merricote, and was also at Sydney’s Quay.
Start with a smaller version of the bistro’s seafood platter. In an antique silver bowl filled with crushed ice are rock oysters with Bloody Shiraz gin; scallops that’ve been diced with fennel and finger lime, then put back in their shell; and clams with balled cucumber and scampi roe. The larger version includes peeled prawns with gin-infused Marie Rose sauce and a half-crayfish in handmade ceramic bowls.
The straightforward way dishes are presented on the menu – as a tidy list of ingredients – belies the clever technique and skill behind them. Atop the vegetables in your heirloom tomato consommé you’ll find a refreshing sorbet; an entree with tuna and eggplant features the two in foams and purees; and a whole Millia’s Farm duck for two comes out in two plates – one with the prettier thigh and another with the heftier leg and breast.
Also on the menu: four choices of caviar, with buckwheat blini and classic condiments, by the gram or tin; a black truffle and-foie gras toastie; and gnocchi Parisienne (French-style gnocchi made with choux pastry) with broad beans and peas.
One highlight on the dessert menu is the baba: an airy cake soaked with gin-and-raspberry syrup, dotted with fresh berries.
Presiding over the floor-to-ceiling wine cellar is beverage manager Clint Fox and sommelier Hannah Day. There are top-shelf drops (in a wall cavity that was once a safe), as well as Grand Cru burgundies, back-vintages sourced through Pickett’s friends, and an extensive selection of locally made drops.