Bistro Guillaume review

The dessert trolley is stacked with classic sweets, like Paris-Brest, millefeuille, pistachio-hued trifles and chocolate ...
The dessert trolley is stacked with classic sweets, like Paris-Brest, millefeuille, pistachio-hued trifles and chocolate mousse.  Photo: Christopher Pearce

259 George St Sydney, NSW 2000

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Features Accepts bookings, Groups, Events, Business lunch
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Phone 02 8622 9555

Business is pretty brisk at the new Bistro Guillaume, tucked into the lobby of the Suncorp building in the corporate end of the CBD. Even $35 billion of value being wiped off the Australian Stock Exchange doesn't seem to slow down the breakfast meetings, where richy-rich truffled scrambled eggs ($28) and a Frenchy version of a bacon and egg roll ($8) are big orders.

Lunch is also well attended by the board level crowd, as lesser execs gather at the bistro's patisserie counter for Cinque Stelle coffee, Iggy's breads and chocolate and caramel tarts to schlep back to the desk.

Mind you, when Guillaume Brahimi says "bistro", he doesn't exactly mean red-and-white checked paper serviettes and cheap baguettes; he means bistro de luxe. And when he says the inspiration for this third Bistro Guillaume after Melbourne and Perth is "belly pork", he doesn't really mean that, either. He means, of course, belle epoque (blame it not on the French accent, but the wooden ear).

Forget red-and-white serviettes and cheesy cliches, Bistro Guillaume's look is inspired by the Belle Epoque.
Forget red-and-white serviettes and cheesy cliches, Bistro Guillaume's look is inspired by the Belle Epoque. Photo: Christopher Pearce

Interior designer Blainey North's plush, confident, high-detail treatment of this 130-seater dining room evokes the symmetry and style of the early 20th-century Parisian bistro, with its padded baby blue banquettes and deep, generous upholstered chairs; handsome brushed bronze and silk light fittings; dark-stained wooden floors and fine timber cabinetry. (So bell-y-pork.)

If the design is all about timeless comfort, then so too is the menu, stacked with luxed-up bistro classics from onion soup to escargots, and cote de boeuf to duck confit. There's a clever twice-baked cheese souffle service, designed for either one, two, or four to share ($20/$45/$65). Mine is dark of bottom, but it's fun, rich and very French, with admirable height and roquefortiness, served with a soft cress, apple and walnut salad.

Not everything is rich – there's a fresh little salade nicoise ($20) presented on a board with jewel-like discs of just-seared yellowfin tuna, olive tapenade, a runny boiled egg and piles of snappy green beans.

Whiting Colbert is a familiar sight from Guillaume Brahimi's time running Bennelong restaurant.
Whiting Colbert is a familiar sight from Guillaume Brahimi's time running Bennelong restaurant. Photo: Christopher Pearce

I take it back –  pretty much everything is rich. Whiting Colbert ($48) has been resurrected from Guillaume's Bennelong days; sent out whole but de-boned, finely crumbed and deep-fried, perched like a fishing trophy on a plinth of fried pont neuf potatoes with a big disc of tarragon butter melting on top. There are more exciting dishes than the steak frites (like the minute steak), but it's decent, well-cooked grass-fed sirloin with a glossy bearnaise sauce and crisp chips ($39). No surprises there.

One of the great strengths is the Frenchness of the service, with its inherent attention to detail. The vast French wine list is strong on pinot noir and chardonnay, and suggestions are precise and elegant, putting, say, a ripe, spicy 2014 Clos Bagatelle Grenache/Carignan ($18/$73) from Saint Chinian with the buttery sirloin.

This year's big come-back trend, the custom-built trolley, is another part of the charm, and it is impossible to say "non" to a dessert cart covered in the calorific glories of Paris-Brest, millefeuille, pistachio-hued trifles and chocolate mousse by the spoonful ($25 pp). Dinners here end early due to licensing laws, but Bistro Guillaume is set to skim off the cream of the corporate world's breakfast and lunch budgets. Give or take the odd $35 billion.

The twice-baked cheese souffle is cleverly designed and can be ordered in different sizes: for one, two or four to share.
The twice-baked cheese souffle is cleverly designed and can be ordered in different sizes: for one, two or four to share. Photo: Christopher Pearce

THE LOWDOWN

Best bit: Slick Frenchy service.
Worst bit: The office foyer location.

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: Twice-baked souffle with roquefort sauce, $20/$45/$85

http://bistroguillaumesydney.com.au