Bistro Rex, a colonial French restaurant on Macleay Street in Potts Point is open.
With Macleay Street’s European focus (Fratelli Paradiso, Apollo), it’s a seamless addition to the neighbourhood. After Missy French closed in October last year, Bisto Rex and Macleay St Bistro are the last Parisians standing.
The brasserie marries the talents of head chef Jo Ward (former owner of Bloodwood); sous chef Michelle Powell (bar manager at Spice Temple); Baci Moore (former manager of Spice Temple); and Josh Dunne (sommelier at China Doll).
“We want to be a bistro and we want to be approachable, so … it’s quite chic, but we’ve got boxes of wine under the banquettes in places. We just want to casual it down,” says co-owner Kirk Matthews Bowden. “The staff is in T-shirts. It’s got to be a neighborhood drop-in place.”
So what exactly is colonial French food?
Ward’s king prawn beignet (deep-fried choux pastry), for example, is wrapped in carrot and cucumber and rolled, almost like a rice paper roll, with a Sriracha-style sauce on top. There’s also a very classic French confit chicken or duck dish. “Instead, we’ve confited the leg and it’s done in a light, almost spicy broth, so it’s got that North African feeling coming into it. It looks French, and the cooking techniques are French, but we’ve taken out the butter.” Ward’s focus is on flavours from the colonies of North Africa and Vietnam.
“We didn’t want to restrict ourselves to classic French food,” says Matthews Bowden. “It’s really important to us that it’s an environment that you can eat in two times a week if you want. Our food is lighter, cleaner French. You’ll still get classics but we’ve taken out a lot of the butter and added in fresh flavours.”
There’s also a steamed market fish with smoked oysters and kohlrabi; a gruyere soufflé; and steak frites with café de Paris-style mash.
“It’s the first time all of us have worked together,” says Matthews Bowden. “I think with every new team you have to start at the bottom again and build up. All we can hope is that we’ve got nice people. We’ve employed people that we think are naturally kind.”
The design, by Ralph Rembel, is a reinvention of a classic Parisian bistro. You can see the mosaic penny tiles and impressive pillars from the street. The three round banquettes covered in greenish-blue leather are inviting and comfortable. There’s dried lavender hanging from the bar, white linen napkins and a lot of copper.
52 Macleay Street, Potts Point
(02) 9332 2100
Mon 12pm- late
Tue to Wed 5pm - late
Thu to Sun 12pm - late