When a restaurant is celebrating 35 years of trading you know they must be onto something special.
Macleay St Bistro in Potts Point puts a modern Australian spin on classic French bistro fare and we like it. A lot. It tastes like fine dining yet somehow also maintains a relaxed and friendly feel.
Serving what we suspect includes a rather loyal set of regular diners on Macleay street for many years, the venue is celebrating its 35th anniversary with a new set menu of classic dishes that features some of their all time stand out offerings ($90 for 6 courses).
This is in addition to their full a la carte menu and a lengthy list of daily blackboard specials that tends to be more old-school in nature - hearty, and often in bigger portions.
In this way the bistro combines classic French bistro dining with some more modern culinary trends and offers a clever variety of dishes on both menus that complement nicely. Even if not opting for the classics menu, staff encourage you to mix and match between the different menus to try a little of both styles if you like.
Starting with a warmed Sonoma French Baguette with Pepe Saya salted butter ($3) is an obvious move, and a perfect way to whet your appetite for the delicacies to come.
Move on to select from entrees such as the Classic French Onion soup ($20) or have your onion in a different way with the Twice Baked French Onion Soufflé with truffle butter ($22), a deliciously indulgent and warming dish that doesn't sit too heavily at all, particularly if sharing.
Complement these with Pan Seared Scallops with Cauliflower Purée & Roasted Hazelnuts ($22) which is fairly uncomplicated in its flavours or the popular Organic Grass Fed Eye Fillet Steak Tartare ($28).
Fittingly, it was the main course that won us over as the greatest highlight. A Pan Rendered Fillet of Duck Breast with Peaches, Eschallots & Armagnac Jus ($42) is generously portioned, so tender and flavoursome and the addition of peaches is divine. The presentation is also stunning.
From the "70s classics" blackboard menu, a Beef Bourguignon is hard to pass by and we are certainly glad we didn't skip it. Melt-in-your-mouth beef, rich gravy and creamy mash fill the plate and happy bellies.
More choices from the Classics menu include a Chicken & Mushroom Crepe ($28), Moules Marinières et Frites ($30) and a Crumbed Pork Cutlet with Pear Compote, Warm Red Cabbage, Carrot and Sultana Salad ($30).
Hard as it may be, saving room for dessert is recommended. Options include Profiteroles ($16), a Chocolate Fondant ($18) and the quirkier option of a Passionfruit Soufflé with Coconut Sorbet ($22). We are sometimes shamelessly predictable and cannot look far beyond the Classic Macleay St Bistro Crème Brûlée ($16). We have zero regrets about this decision; it's a large portion with a perfectly crisp scorched sugar top that begs to be instantly cracked open and devoured. We oblige.
The wine list includes a thoughtful selection of mostly French and Australian drops, or you can BYO (wine only). We can vouch for the Mon Coeur Rhône Valley Syrah - mon coeur indeed.
Note must be made of waiter Páidí whose extraordinary charisma seemed to keep the entire room happy with a warm and inviting atmosphere.
A night at Macleay St Bistro feels like a special occasion even when it isn't. It's fine dining with the option to keep it simple or be as indulgent as you like.