Bistro Rex review

Short but smart menu: T-bone T-Rex, served with sauce au poivre.
Short but smart menu: T-bone T-Rex, served with sauce au poivre. Photo: Edwina Pickles

52 50 MacLeay St Elizabeth Bay, NSW 2011

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Opening hours Lunch Thu-Mon from noon; Dinner daily from 5pm
Features Licensed, Bar, Wheelchair access
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Payments AMEX, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 02 9332 2100

Oscar is going to love Bistro Rex. So are Bruno, Alfie, Molly and Sooty. While their humans are dining on beef tartare and spanner crab omelette inside, the Dogs of Potts Point (it's a thing) can gather around gleaming copper water bowls on the street, their leads attached to bespoke hooks.

The copper theme continues inside, with warmly metallic copper handrails leading to three oversized, copper-clad circular booths that reference giant cooking pots.

Designer Ralph Rembel's homage to the classic French bistro runs to honeycomb mosaic-tiled floors and columns, a magnificent 13-metre-long zinc bar that was poured on-site, traditional bentwood bistro chairs and French oak panelling.

Rum baba with creme diplomat and caramelised pineapple.
Rum baba with creme diplomat and caramelised pineapple.  Photo: Edwina Pickles

What is it about the enduring charm of the French bistro? We are endlessly excited about each one that comes along. Just say pissaladiere and chicken liver parfait and we're slathering like, well, Oscar.

It's no different here, where two of the restaurant's nine co-owners - former Bloodwood and Vincent head chef Jo Ward and co-chef Michelle Powell - work on a short but smart menu of steak frites, pork cutlet with savoy cabbage, and dark chocolate gateau. See? Slather.

Two more co-owners, Peter Curcuruto and Baci Moore (think Rockpool, Spice Temple, China Doll and China Lane), work the floor, with Nick Bowden and Kirk Mathews behind the bar, and GM Josh Dunne doing the wine, making it a pretty A-list service team. Behind the scenes are directors Michael and Marlee Anker.

Designer Ralph Rembel's homage to the classic French bistro.
Designer Ralph Rembel's homage to the classic French bistro. Photo: Edwina Pickles

But let's just go back to that chicken liver parfait ($18) for a moment. It's downright exquisite, cut into a small, smooth, creamy brick and bejeweled with a sweet and sour dice of golden sauternes jelly and port-soaked currants.

King prawn beignets ($24) are fun; the plump, lightly battered fritters filled with a lush prawn mousse and served - in a nod to the French colony of Vietnam - with shredded cucumber and chilli aioli.

The dish that has everyone talking (including the dogs, I bet) is the cote de boeuf, one of the great set-pieces of the bistro repertoire.

Go-to dish: Chicken liver parfait with sweet sour jelly.
Go-to dish: Chicken liver parfait with sweet sour jelly. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Here it's done with a one-kilogram black angus T-bone - dubbed the T-Rex, hehe - served with sauce au poivre ($89), for three or four to share.

Dunne has compiled a very sympathique and substantial Frenchy wine list that runs from a '96 Chateau Margeaux (you have to ask? $2500) to a peachy 2015 Michelet Petit Chablis, generously available by the glass, carafe or bottle ($15/$49/$72).

As with any bistro anywhere, there are dishes that do it for you and dishes that don't. The do's for me are chicken, both confit and poached, in a puddle of aromatic harissa broth ($34); and blue eye trevalla ($38), delicately steamed, thatched with kohlrabi and purslane and served with a curious smoked oyster dressing.

King prawn beignet with chilli aioli.
King prawn beignet with chilli aioli.  Photo: Edwina Pickles

Steak frites ($36) is a little lacklustre, swimming in Cafe de Paris butter, and a silverbeet side ($10) is dull.

Rum-obsessives can upgrade the light and lovely rum baba with creme diplomat and caramelised pineapple ($14) with a range of special rums, although even the standard-issue Havana Club Especial makes it a sweet, boozy treat.

Rex is a tight, contemporary package run by industry pros who clearly love working for themselves. It's a drop-in, seven-days-a-week bistro that's the perfect fit for its inner eastern crowd. Even the four-legged ones.

The lowdown

Best bit: The enduring charm of the French bistro.

Worst bit: The enduring noise of the French bistro.

Terry Durack is chief restaurant critic for The Sydney Morning Herald and senior reviewer for the Good Food Guide. This rating is based on the Good Food Guide scoring system.

Go-to Dish: Chicken liver parfait, sweet sour jelly, $18.

http://bistrorex.com.au/