The duo behind Pelicano Bar, Tim Holmes à Court and Daimon Downey, have opened French Henri. It is a pop-up in the same spot in Australia Square that used to house another venture of theirs, The Lemon Tree (now closed), which served a light take on Southern Italian cuisine. The restaurant may have switched from Italian to French, but the pink terrazzo marble bar, designed by Tasmin Johnson, remains.
“Our two favourite places to eat and holiday are Italy and France,” says Downey. “So after the first pop-up we decided to hop across the border to France.”
Once again the duo will team up with head chef Peter Streckfuss (previously of Catalina). This time he will offer an all-day menu. "I love the French attention to detail – their attention to service, cocktails and plating," says Downey.
One of Downey’s favourite dishes is the fish en papilotte. "It is cooked in a paper bag. You bust it open and the steam of fennel, lemon and garlic hit you in the face."
Breakfast items include the croque monsieur (a ham-and-cheese toasted sandwich covered in bechamel sauce). Dinner features the eatery’s signature: steak frites. The steak is served with lashings of herb butter and thin, crunchy fries – at $24 it’s an affordable post-work dinner.
There’s a bar menu offered during the day. Cocktails use cognac and champagne liberally, leaning towards the classics with a French touch. The Mystery of the Oak – made with Martell VSOP Cognac, mint, pineapple and vanilla syrup – is an ideal winter drink. Another highlight is the Paris Pash – with brandy, Noilly Prat, ginger, lemon and a float of red wine. French Henri also stocks Château Miraval Rosé from the winery owned by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
Both menus occasionally veer away from strictly French fare. There’s a standard cheeseburger and the beer is Peroni – a nod to the pop-up’s Italian heritage – or Australian craft beer.
The décor has also been updated for cooler months with a cosier navy blue and white palette. Prints by Henri Matisse – the pop-up’s namesake – line the walls. Alfresco seating facing the piazza exudes Côte D’Azur vibes.
Sydney’s food scene is lacking in fun, casual French dining with bistro food and cocktails. From omelettes and baguettes, to a croissant ice-cream sandwich – this is an easy, any-night-of-the-week kind of restaurant.
Australia Square Piazza, 264 George Street, Sydney
(02) 9241 1605
Mon to Tue 7.30am–5pm
Wed to Fri 7.30am–10.30pm