Macleay St Bistro Moves

Rebecca Varidel
14th Feb 2024

Sydney’s French dining institution Macleay St Bistro has moved opening a few doors down. The restaurant is now a spacious 123sqm, rather than a tiny 61sqm and fits 55-60 covers instead of 38. Changing the location of one of the longest-running restaurants in Sydney - the popular bistro is over 40 years old this month – was a big decision, says owner Phillip Fikkers. “Our customers have been telling me, ‘You had the food, you had the service, but you never had the fit out.’ Now we do,” he says. “The other restaurant was a little bit more formal; this has a sophisticated, casual elegance to it.”

Macleay St.Bistro has taken over the site that was once home to Monopole and then the short-lived Enoteca Ponti. The fit-out for the latter was designed by Ar Huis and Fikkers has added the final touches to the space. He’s kept the cherry red leather banquettes, parquetry flooring and copper trims and added double white linen, scatter cushions, palm trees and green walls to soften the space. It was important to Fikkers to stay on Macleay Street, and not just because of the restaurant’s name. “We have a strong loyal following, and a lot of our customers don’t like change,” he says. “This is the Paris end of Macleay Street, and the location is synonymous with the brand.”


The restaurant may have a new location, but the menu is as familiar as it’s always been.
Chef Callum Brewin and his team have brought all the favourites across, including the steak tartare – made with organic grass-fed eye fillet - which has been on the menu for 43 years and is still served in the same classic way as either an entrée or main. Other signature dishes include twice-baked French onion cheese souffle, steak frites and crème brulee.

“The Chateaubriand served with a peppercorn jus and béarnaise sauce, accompanied by hand-cut, triple-cooked chunky potatoes with green beans for two has become a staple on the weekend menu. The other weekend roast special is the chicken breast with baked pumpkin, roasted eschallots, carrots and potatoes with the same addictive sauce of caramelised mushroom and thyme, which has become a favourite for our diners,” says Fikkers.

New additions include a 30g tin of Oscietra Polanco caviar, which diners can consume with accompaniments or as a bump.


When it comes to drinks, there’s a new seasonal cellar collection with wines worth celebrating. Instead of Veuve, sip on a 2015 Pierre Gimonnet Cramant Grand Cru, a deep and concentrated Champagne with fantastic mineral freshness. Red wine lovers will make a beeline for the 2017 Château D’Issan, 3ème Grand Cru Classé, from Margaux in Bordeaux, France, a full-bodied wine with beautifully balanced tannins and refreshing acidity.

Macleay St.Bistro is still one of the only fine dining restaurants that does BYO. It’s $14 a bottle every day except Sunday, which has no corkage charge. “BYO has always been part of the restaurant’s DNA,” Fikkers says. “A lot of customers bring in amazing wine from their cellars, they’ll drop them off from 12pm, and we decant them ready for lunch or dinner.”

The new space includes great new cocktails with classic drinks and appetizers to start. Make yourself comfortable for the evening as you team your Kir Royal, Champagne and crème de cassis, with a dozen oysters or a French martini, a mix of Chambord, vodka and pineapple juice, with a creamy chicken liver parfait with confiture de figues and red onion confit.


The Ar Huis fitout takes inspiration from European wine bars of the 1950s. The leather banquettes are a deep red. The dark brown wood, copper trims and arched mirrors have a romantic, old-school meets new-school classic French feel. Every detail feels thoughtful, from the tone of the green walls to the use of colours and traditional white tablecloths and napkins, to the tiling and arches on the walls. The space is warm and inviting, perfect for everything from date night to a large group celebration. It’s a space that everyone, from the young, chic diner to the young at heart will feel comfortable in.


Fikkers believes one of the reasons Macleay St.Bistro has such longevity is its consistency.
In a fickle dining market, when new venues close before they reach double-digits, Macleay St.Bistro has stood the test of time. Regular diners, and those who haven’t been yet, will be reassured to know that although it’s in a new location, it boasts the same kitchen team and loyal service staff. People know what to expect, which is a warm welcome and classic French food done very well.

“They’re dishes people know and love,” he says. “The French onion soup is done the way it should be, with onions caramalised in butter over several hours. It’s been on the menu since we opened in 1982. There’s been an explosion of French openings recently, but we’re not trying to do trendy French food with a twist. Our customers come here for comforting French classic dishes. Diners know what they are going to get, and we find many of them book the restaurant because they want a certain dish.”

Fikkers sees himself as a custodian of the brand. He was a regular customer who took over the restaurant in 2014 when he found out it was for sale. He couldn’t bear to see it closed. He hopes this latest incarnation of the restaurant will attract new diners who want to embrace a classic French experience. “This new space is lighter, brighter and more welcoming,” Fikkers says. “I understand there’s a rush to dine at the hottest new restaurant, but a new venue can’t deliver what an established venue can. We have the experience to deliver impeccable service, a decadent menu, and an evening to remember.”


The new address for Macleay St Bistro is 71A Macleay Street, Potts Point, 2010.