To enter you wander down an alleyway, pass through a door and take a flight of stairs down to an antique-look, Euro-style cocktail bar. Another door leads to a similarly Continental-themed room, the dining room, with a flaming hearth covered in T-bone steaks as the centrepiece.
It’s all very theatrical, so much so it’s reminiscent of another transportive CBD venue: Restaurant Hubert. It’s hard to imagine the owners of Bistecca, James Bradey and Warren Burns, weren’t inspired by the hugely popular French restaurant. But while the feel may be similar, this isn’t a Hubert rip-off – the product is markedly different.
Bistecca is only about steak. Literally – it’s the one and only main on the menu. And not just any steak, one particular style: bistecca alla fiorentina, or T-bone traditionally cooked, originally in Tuscany, over coals and served rare.
“It’s risky, but we're not worrying about cooking five different cuts of meat, poaching fish and roasting chicken, or whatever. We just cook steak absolutely perfectly,” says Bradey.
And why T-bone? “The beauty of the T-bone is you’re getting two different cuts of meat on the one bone … the sirloin and fillet will cook at different temperatures,” says Bradey.
This is how it works. You ask for your steak in weight, at $13 per 100 grams. It’s carved in front of the hearth and then a waiter presents the cut at the table, tells you the price, and once you agree it’s whisked away to be cooked. You then order sides – maybe some slow-cooked white beans, crunchy potatoes or Italian-style ricotta dumplings.
Chef Pip Pratt (formerly of London’s Michelin-starred Club Gascon and Bentley) first chars the cut over a flaming mix of charcoal, olive branches and oak, then slides it into the oven before finishing it on the flames again, but this time with a wash of olive oil and steak juice. Your meat and sides are then served immediately, probably with a glass of nebbiolo or sangiovese you’ve also ordered. In the future Bistecca may add a wine shop to sell the 300 bottles sommelier Alice Massaria (ex Ucello and Saint Peter has pulled together for the wine list.
The hearth and the steak are the headliners at Bistecca. And in the front room is the support act: a bar with an Amaro-led cocktail list and a short menu of cicchetti (Venetian for “bar morsels”), the biggest of which is a meatball panini.
Refreshingly, Bradey isn’t claiming Bistecca’s are the best steaks in town, he’s more concerned about getting the best possible cut for your money.
“I want this to be known as the best-in-class steak restaurant in Australia. You can go and get a better steak [elsewhere], but it'll cost you. Here the price point is [lower], but the quality isn't very different. It might not be as mind-blowing [as those more expensive places], but Bistecca’s steak is really bloody good.”
4 Bridge Street, Sydney, (access via Dalley Street)
(02) 8067 0450
Mon to Sat 4pm–2am