Despite being home to plenty of excellent diners, bars and cafes, the south end of Newtown’s King Street has long been overshadowed by the louder, blowzier north end. The arrival of Pistou, a new Provence-style wine bar and deli, probably won’t change that – but since opening earlier this year it’s become a firm local favourite.
“We wanted to be different. I always had something like this in mind, and location was really important to us,” owner Jules Bouillon tells Broadsheet. “This end of King Street is a bit more residential, a bit of a local crowd. We thought it would suit well.”
Born raised in Provence, Bouillon is a hospo veteran. He previously managed North Sydney’s Glorietta and Barangaroo’s Nola, and when legendary New York restaurant Balthazar launched an outpost in London, he was part of the opening team. He says his aim when opening Pistou – the name of a condiment from the south of France that’s much like pesto – was to offer locals somewhere to come for a full lunch or dinner experience, or just stop by for a glass of wine and some cheese and charcuterie. While it’s heavily steeped in Provençal dining, Bouillon says influences from other Mediterranean countries – mainly Spain and Italy – are in the mix as well.
Bouillon and chef Kate Morris, who was founding head chef at Glorietta, work with small producers and farmers to put together the frequently changing food menu. One week you might snack on pickled octopus with pistou sauce and borlotti beans, the next you might enjoy braised fennel with burrata and walnuts. There are always several cheese and charcuterie options on the menu; you can choose individually or go the whole hog and order the $42 Pistou Plate – a huge serving of meats, cheeses, bread, crackers, dips, pickles and olives that’s easily a meal for two in itself. The meats and cheeses are also available to take away.
“You can just visit and buy things [by the gram] as in a deli, or we can do a cheese plate to take away,” says Bouillon. “The idea of the restaurant was to demonstrate what we have in the deli.”
Pick-and-mix brunch plates are the go on weekends. For $19 choose a protein (options include poached eggs, gravlax and Pino’s smoked ham), two veggies and two condiments (including tapenade and garlic confit). Add a Bloody Mary or opt for a Loggerhead coffee.
The drinks list is just as tightly curated. There are only three cocktails, and none of them requires a shaker. “We want to make sure every single staff member is able to make them,” says Bouillon. There’s a spritz, a “short and strong” cocktail and a “tall and refreshing” number, all of which change at least weekly. But there is a strong focus on aperitifs and digestifs (“We don’t really drink cocktails in France, we will drink an aperitif or digestif somewhere local”), mainly from France and Italy. The wine list leans Aussie and natural, and Bouillon sources only from small producers. Like everything else, it changes with the seasons, with more chilled reds in summer and heavier drops in the cooler months.
“We keep it small and work with small producers,” says Bouillon. “We always ask them what they’re going to do next. It keeps it interesting for the locals as well – with people coming back three times a week, we want to make sure they don’t get bored. All of our producers are focused on organic or minimal intervention, so quite a lot of natural wine. We don’t want to work with big producers.”
The space, designed by Amy McLeod, is warm and inviting: clusters of dried chillis and herbs hang from the musk-pink walls, one of which is lined with 100-year-old tiles from Turkey – a common design feature in Provence – and there’s potted basil in the front window.
“I do not like straight lines and places that feel new,” says Bouillon. “I want to go somewhere that feels rustic and warm. We just want everyone to feel welcome, it doesn’t matter if you come for a little nibble or a full-on lunch. We’re just all about passion.”
601 King Street, Newtown
Tue to Fri 12pm–late