The name, The Butler harks back to over twenty years ago and an iconic Sydney restaurant - that was co-owned by one of our founding Sydney French chefs Damien Pignolet - Butlers. It and Mezzaluna, that also graced the floors of 123 Victoria Street, are two of the historic culinary icons of this city.
It is fantastic to see this incredible space blossoming again. Recently re-opened, The Butler with its leafy foliage. French colonial design, and contemporary French Caribbean food, more than does justice to its ancestry.
A restaurant, a bistro, a bar. By day or by night, The Butler is dishing up some of the best food to be found in Sydney right now.
The menu offers nibbles, share plates and more substantial dishes that greet you for lunch or for dinner, or even just for bar snacks. It's not just the venue that is blossoming, as Chef James Privett has really hit his stride with his opening page. And it's all very affordable.
After opening party canapés, we snuck back the next day to revisit the most delicious Salt cod croquettes fluffy light potato with just enough salt cod to support the two bite rounds but not so much to overpower them, were accompanied at lunch by a creamy full flavoured curried mayo. In the lists of things that people push out, there is always talk about who makes the best sausage rolls in Sydney. Try these: Lyonnaise pork sausage rolls, rum & pineapple relish - have the perfect texture, the perfect seasoning, plus a bit more. The sliders we tried in the evening were seasoned and moist and rare and top knotch, and replaced as our choice in the day by the classic update of Boidon noir slider, relish and charred corn. The spices and heat balanced beautifully with the blood sausage, contrasted by the sweetness of corn and the small soft bun. For those in slider overload, as yes they are ubiquitous in Sydney bars, The Butler is the place to revisit and rethink, just how good a slider can be.
Yes, we are big fans. We love this place a lot!
The restaurant recommends sharing the plates. We say: BE GREEDY! (This comes from a first child, who usually shares her plate/s at even the fanciest restaurants, leans over and spears food from the plates of others, and passes half her dish as a swap mid-meal.)
The seven choices of Seafare match Tabasco prawns with mango salsa and coconut quinoa, Privett recommends the Salmon with spiced egglplant, celery, curried yoghurt (we have to go back!) and the Roast snapper fillet, heritage carrots, dukkah, eel butter all but tempted us to eat even more than we should have on our second visit.
Here comes another big call...
Hand cut steak tartare, toasts is (possibly) the best version we've eaten. Magically spiced including immaculate brunoise of gherkins matching rounded baby capers, Privett conjurs what could be the perfect plate of the year. Toasts are whopping generous spreads, yet wafer thin, golden and crisp and a total delight. The tartare although a kitchen pre-mix, does everything right, so here the advice is to leave it to the man who knows best. Applause!
The versatility of considerations and their delivery take The Butler guests from Creole spiced lamb ribs or Duck sausage, confit leg, pickled beetroot, celery and Slow roast saltbush lamb shoulder, sage, gribiche through to the (get ready for another superlative) most unctuous and creamy soft centred inside a coating of crunchy crumbs. Lamb brains, artichokes, peas, caramalised butter is a showcase plate. (You can share it if you like. We wouldn't.)
Four options of sides complete the picture: Grilled zucchini, goats, cheese, basil; Shaved cabbage, prosiutto, soft egg; Fried cauliflower, silverbeet, currants, spiced almond; Peas, speck, onion. If you know French food, you'll get it. Executed perfectly. As (co-owner) Hamish Watts confided "Man, he can cook." And you know who we are talking about. Yes. Indeed. Agreed.
So now you know you need to eat when you come to The Butler. Just because the food is fabulous, don't limit the venue to dining out. The place mixes interspersed tables, banquettes and chairs in colonial cane, with high benches and stools. Just right for a bar night.
So. When you add a tight but lovely French and Australian wine list with plenty of choices of wines - including Champagne and French bubbles - by the glass, you can start to think wine bar, when you think The Butler. To the back of the list the versatility of this joint shows through again with elegant yet well priced cocktails, including The Espresso Martini 3 Ways. Now we're really talking The Butler bar. The double page spread spans the Air France (G'Vine Gin) The Grand Butler (Bulleit Rye), Cognaquiri, and the Butler Side Car (highly recommended for its hint of apricot and almond). And if that is not enough, and you like a classic cocktail, just ask - for anything.
Same goes if you have a sweet tooth. There is no dessert menu at The Butler. Just ask. We finished with a luscious rich dark classic chocolate mousse - another of the best versions we've enjoyed in quite a while.
Our call - although a late comer for 2014 - for Sydney best new restaurant and best new bar of the year.