Well arrivederci Italy, and bonjour France. The team behind Sydney's Fratelli Fresh and the mega-popular Cafe Sopra chainlet have suddenly gone all Gallic with the opening of their brand new bebe, Cafe Nice in Circular Quay.
Old hands will know it as the site of Merrony's a million years ago, newbies will be newly charmed by the views of harbour, ferries, bridge and the 6.45pm train to Central as it bustles past.
The intention of owners Barry McDonald and Nina Gravelis is to bring a little of Provence, and particularly Nice, to the city's dining options – clever, when you consider that Nice is a city where both Italian and French influences mix with a sunny, breezy ease. The entrance opens to a horseshoe bar and on into dining rooms awash with Nicoise yellow and soft pastels.
The menu plays with all things Nicoise, from a toss-at-the-table Salade Nicoise to a ratatouille Nicoise of soft, gentle flavours, topped with a slow-cooked egg. Under "boucherie" is what we bet will be the hottest dish: poulet roti for two with confit garlic, herbs and radishes.
“I've ordered this three times out of five,” says one of the city's hottest property entrepreneurs at an adjacent table. There's a steak minute grille with red wine butter, then it's on to "riz" dishes and fruits de mer.
It's not so much of a stretch from Italian to French for chef David Young. Instead of Cafe Sopra's pizza, he's now baking a rich Nicoise pissaladiere, the perfect bite with a Lillet aperitif. Spaghetti comes with pistou here rather than the ragu of Cafe Sopra, polenta comes with Roquefort instead of gorgonzola, and the house wine is locally sourced from L'Orange, rather than Arancia, ha ha.
Time will tell, but this looks set to be a great stop before and after the theatre and Opera… and even instead of.
2 Phillip Street, Circular Quay Phone 02 8248 9600.
Lunch Mon-Fri, Dinner Mon-Sat. No reservations.