A French Affair

Bistro de Paris: A Review

Hidden amongst the bustle of a busy street in Bondi Junction sits the quaint Bistro de Paris. Lit with yellow neon lights and dressed up with storybook red chequered curtains and dark red windowsills this restaurant makes you feel Parisian at heart.

On entering this characteristically French bistro and greeted warmly by the owner maître de Fred, one immediately feels the French ambience and rhythm. At the curtained windows sit intimate tables adorned with single flowers in vases, salt, pepper and jars of mustard (French of course), while the rest of the small dining room has tables along each wall of this yellow and maroon room. You know you are in for a French experience when vintage Pernod and Absinthe posters hang the wall and the menu and specials board is in French before English.

Fred and his wife, both French, work at the restaurant nearly every evening, sharing the roles with their predominantly French wait staff. After spending a few minutes inside this warm yet slightly kitsch restaurant you can’t help but feel you may soon become a Francophile.

While browsing the menu and wine list that features a great mix of Australian, New Zealand and French wines and beers at a very reasonable price, we are advised to enjoy one of their three appetizers. Out of a choice of Pate de Porc (House made pork pate$), Terrine de lapin au Romain (Rabbit and rosemary terrine $4) we choose the Rillette de Canard (Duck Rillettes $ 4) served on a thin French baguette is a true delight.

Simple and succulent the well-seasoned and cooked shredded meat is balanced perfectly with it’s fat to produce a rillette in its best form. Bistro de Paris’s menu claims to serve traditional French cuisine the rillette proving true - a great culinary merit to what the French do best- charcuterie.

A Soufflé à la ciboulette et fromage de chevre (Chive and goats cheese soufflé $11) interrupts my delight in the traditional and simple as it is served on a bed of leafy bitter greens, zucchini flower petals and a fine tomato concasse. Out of its ramekin this soufflé surprises as my preference for a cheese soufflé is not to mix it with a salad, but to indulge in a light yet rich and cheesy baked ‘pudding’.

While the texture and lightness is textbook, the thick slice of sharp and chalky goats cheese although warm and melting from being grilled, weighs down the effort and skills into what makes a great soufflé. Unfortunately for me their innovative approach takes away from the dish instead of enhancing, not to mention disturbing what was a perfectly cooked soufflé.

The Cassolette D’Escargot au beurre de persillade (Cassolette of snails served in garlic parsley butter $13.00) is well seasoned with a great balance between creamy salty butter and heady garlic. It was a pity however, that the snails were not in their shells and were some what hidden amongst too many mushrooms.

The Souris D’Agneau à la Toulousain (Lamb shank with white haricot beans, baby spinach, zucchini flower and French fries $20.00) as with most of the dishes Bistro de Paris serves, has its heart in the right place with well-seasoned food and a defiant knowledge and talent for traditional French cuisine. What it lacks however is the practise of perfecting each dish on the menu to all be of the same standard.

A perfectly seasoned and cooked lamb shank is succulent, sticky and soft with the meat falling off the bone with a nudge of my fork. The lamb however is in need of a satisfying garnish. Served in an earthen ware dish on a bed of boiled white beans, baby spinach, oven blushed cherry tomatoes, a little of the lamb’s cooking juices and garnished with an oddly placed raw zucchini flower this dish is typical in flavours from south-western France like the name suggests. Keeping specific to a region however does not create great flavour alone.

The choice of ingredients and concept of this dish is simple yet hearty and I can see what the chef is trying to produce- a warming and comforting meal, by cooking the garnish in one dish in the oven allowing the spinach to sauté, the beans to soak and thicken some the juices of the meat and balance the sweet acidic ness of the tomatoes. However the beans are as such, a little too plentiful and simply boiled, the spinach results in being half wilted and half raw while the cherry tomatoes sit alone on top next to an ill-fitting raw and un stuffed zucchini flower.

What I would have loved to have seen the chefs do here is toss the beans, spinach and tomatoes in a little butter and garlic (or to stick to the south- western French flavours a little olive oil) and then put them in the oven with the lamb shank - resulting in a delicious yet simple and harmonised garnish.

While I have to admit that I am a French fries lover, I did not need them with this dish and honestly don’t know how they fitted except for being French.

It was the opposite with the Fillet de boeuf Roquefort (Tender Fillet Steak Roquefort served with French fries and vegetables of the day $20) that was garnished with an over abundance of the Roquefort Sauce. Maybe I am a purist but my preference for a steak dish is the traditional steak and frit with a little sauce or butter to enhance and add to the sweet juicy meat and the perfect excuse to finish all your crunchy golden thin cut fries.

Balanced on a whole roasted tomato the fillet of beef was a little over cooked (particularly when the waitress told us that the chefs like to serve their steaks medium). A little confused about what the vegetable of the day was, either the roasted tomato or the array of more tomatoes - this time concasse style with zucchini, the Roquefort sauce was rich, creamy and sharp, the perfect balance even if there was a little too much of it. The fries lived up to their honour title ‘French’ in being thin cut, beautifully golden and crisp on the outside and that creamy potato inside that we all adore.

The dishes were more than generous in portion leaving us to pass on dessert, however the Crème Brule au Cointreau (Crème brule with Cointreau $8) looked delicious as a diner next to me cracked into the golden sugar crown to scoop up the creamy custard coloured goodness.

Bistro de Paris brings the comfort of French cuisine to our hearts in this small restaurant. While filled with good intentions some of the dishes did fall short of their promises, however it does not seem to stop the regulars coming back for more (and from what I can tell a fair few are French themselves). The well-priced wine list with a small, yet decent variety of wines and beers is pleasing to see. The menu needs a little work, possibly sticking to simple dishes that demonstrate the talent of cooking that the French know so well.

All in all I am sure I will return to this Bistro, if not for their selection of fantastic house made charcuterie, a glass or two of French wine, and a beautiful brule, but then just to feel Parisian in the company of Fred and his wait staff.

Bistro de Paris
105 Oxford Street
02 9386 5601

Open Lunch Tuesday – Friday 12.00 – 2.30
Open Dinner Tuesday – Friday 6pm till late




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