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Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Bistro Papillon, Sydney

Creme brulee toffee at Bistro Papillon, Sydney

It's easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of new restaurant openings in Sydney, but there's reward in hunting out those that don't still smell of fresh paint; restaurants that have had time to settle and get into their groove. Bistro Papillon might feels like it's been on Clarence Street forever, but in fact it only opened in 2010. Actually I take that back. In Sydney's notoriously unforgiving restaurant scene, four years is forever.

Diners at Bistro Papillon, Sydney
Dining room at Bistro Papillon

On a Tuesday night, the restaurant is full, a mix of families, couples and post-work dinners with friends. There's a quaint sense of Parisian escapism to the place. Framed vintage posters? Jaunty French flags? Bar shelves lined with digestifs? Tick, tick and tick. French waitstaff add to the groundswell of French accents, including co-owners chef Ludovic Geyer and front of house Xavier Huitorel. The commuter-clogged streets of Sydney CBD feel like a world away.

Escargots snails in garlic butter at Bistro Papillon, Sydney
Escargots de Bourgogne $15
Half a dozen Burgundy snails baked in garlic and parsley butter

The dinner menu has all your favourite French dishes, like the ubiquitous escargots de bourgogne or snails baked in garlic butter. These are plump and tender morsels, the garlicky pools of butter best mopped up with torn off hunks of baguette.

Homemade chicken liver parfait at Bistro Papillon, Sydney
Pate de foie de volaille $16
Homemade chicken liver parfait with cornichons, red capsicum and orange relish and baguette 

Homemade chicken liver parfait is on the dark side of pink, but the texture is smooth. We slather it on more baguette slices, interspersed with nibbles of cornichons, pickled onion, salad and a gooey quarter of boiled egg.

Rabbit and walnut terrine at Bistro Papillon, Sydney
Terrine de Lapin aux Noix $18
Rabbit and walnut terrine, green apple chutney, cornichons and grilled baguette

The rabbit and walnut terrine ends up being one of my favourite starters, a door-stop of well-seasoned rabbit studded with walnuts.

Beef tartare at Bistro Papillon, Sydney
Tartare de boeuf $35
Finely chopped raw grass fed beef fillet with a spicy mayonnaise and condiments served with grilled baguette, salad and french fries

We share a mains-sized beef tartare between the four of us too, a delicate pile of hand-chopped grass fed beef mixed through with chopped onions, capers and shallots. It strays a little from the usual addition - incorporating green shallots and mayonnaise - but we still polish it off anyway, as well as the handful of french fries on the side.

Mixed seafood stew at Bistro Papillon, Sydney
Cassolette de fruits de mer au chorizo $35
Mixed seafood stew with chorizo and vegetables

The mixed seafood stew is hearty and rich, generous with chunks of salmon, white fish, waxy boiled potatoes, prawns and mussels.

Confit of duck leg at Bistro Papillon, Sydney
Confit de canard $37
Confit of duck leg with a green lentil and vegetable ragout

Although the confit of duck leg is a little on the dry side, the green lentil and vegetable ragout offers plenty of saucy assistance.

Filet de boeuf pan-fried grass-fed beef fillet with bearnaise sauce at Bistro Papillon, Sydney
Filet de boeuf sauce bearnaise $37
Pan-fried grass fed beef fillet with bearnaise sauce, with a side of potato

If you're after something a little richer, the grass-fed beef fillet smothered in bearnaise sauce comes up trumps.

Potato gratin at Bistro Papillon, Sydney
Dauphinois potato gratin included with the filet de boeuf or $6 as a side

We convince the G-man to choose the potato gratin over the mashed potato. The thick slices of potato have been baked until tender, collecting a golden crust on the surface.

Onglet de boeuf grilled hanger steak with burgundy and shallot sauce at Bistro Papillon, Sydney
Onglet de boeuf a l'echalote $35
Grilled hanger steak with burgundy and shallot sauce, served with fries and salad

I went with one of the house specialities, the grilled hanger steak served with a burgundy and shallot sauce. This tender cut of meat hangs over the diaphragm of a steer, and is said to have the most flavour. It's deliciously succulent. The burgundy sauce is tasty too, with both the steak and the fries.

Pear and prune crumble at Bistro Papillon, Sydney
Crumble aux fruits $15
Pear and prune crumble with armagnac creme anglaise

There's an impressive selection of six different sweets for dessert, as well as four different cheeses. The pear and prune crumble has succumbed to the hipster trend of serving everything in jars. We drizzle over the armagnac creme angalise over the sweet crumble on top, and dig down to the bottom to capture chunks of poached pear and prune.

Bread and butter pudding at Bistro Papillon, Sydney
Mendiant aux pomme $15
French style bread and butter pudding with maple and walnut ice cream

The bread and butter pudding is interspersed with petite slices of sweet apple, a comforting dessert made even better with creme anglaise, maple and walnut ice cream, and a piped rosette of cream.

Creme brulee at Bistro Papillon, Sydney
Classic creme brulee $13

And we can't pass up the classic creme brulee. A large rink of toffee beckons us closer with our spoon.

Cracking the toffee on the creme brulee at Bistro Papillon, Sydney

Is there anything more satisfying than that first thwack of the spoon through the thin shell of toffee? We sink our spoons into the wobble of custard and relish its richness against the slight bitterness of toffee. I don't need to tell you we scraped the dish clean.

Bistro Papillon isn't the latest hip restaurant on the Sydney scene, but if you want to feel like you've escaped the city - without leaving the city - this is a good place to start.

Entrance to Bistro Papillon, Sydney

Bistro Papillon on Urbanspoon

Bistro Papillon
98 Clarence Street, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9262 2404

Opening hours:
Lunch Monday to Friday 12pm-3pm
Dinner Monday to Saturday 6pm-10pm

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22 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 11/05/2014 08:45:00 pm


  • At 11/05/2014 10:09 pm, Anonymous kiki@mykikicake said…

    Oh I remember going here for a work dinner a few years ago and loving it. The fish stew looks wonderful, as does the creme brulee...an instant crowd pleaser.

  • At 11/05/2014 10:31 pm, Anonymous Henry said…

    OMG, I need to visit this place :)

  • At 11/06/2014 7:33 am, Anonymous john | heneedsfood said…

    Now that's a healthy dose of béarnaise sauce. I kind of forgot about this place since my work moved away from the area. I walked past it many times, vowing to give it a go. Everything looks and sounds authentically French. Oui oui!

  • At 11/06/2014 9:46 am, Blogger Simon Leong said…

    Love Bistro Papillion. Has so much character and all so French.

  • At 11/06/2014 11:53 am, Blogger Sherrie @ Crystal Noir said…

    Yes omg snails are awesome! Gotta love the rich French cuisine :P

  • At 11/06/2014 12:09 pm, Blogger Milktea Eats said…

    you had me a the hanger steak and seafood stew!

  • At 11/06/2014 12:10 pm, Blogger Milktea Eats said…

    you had me a the hanger steak and seafood stew!

  • At 11/06/2014 3:04 pm, Blogger Jacq said…

    Love a classic French restaurant - the toffee on that creme brulee looks awesome!

  • At 11/06/2014 8:39 pm, Anonymous Cindy (a foodie's joy) said…

    I was just thinking the other night that I should visit Bistro Papillon! The Creme brûlée looks delicious! Yum!

  • At 11/06/2014 9:04 pm, Anonymous Cara @ Gourmet Chick said…

    Now you have given me total escargot craving #takemetoparis!

  • At 11/06/2014 10:05 pm, Blogger gaby @ lateraleating said…

    This place is so close to my office I'm embarrassed to say I haven't been there yet. The classics (pate, terrine, steak tartare) look great, I'll give 'em a shot.

  • At 11/06/2014 10:13 pm, Anonymous Sara | Belly Rumbles said…

    I am sort of loving the beef to béarnaise sauce ratio there. Not tried Bistro Papillon as yet, is still such a newbie on the scene. (has it been four years already? wow!)

  • At 11/07/2014 8:58 am, Blogger Ramen Raff said…

    The dishes looks super awesome classic. I do love the first thwack of spoon on toffee shells :)

  • At 11/07/2014 9:05 am, Anonymous Maureen | Orgasmic Chef said…

    I'm going there for my French fix on my next visit to Sydney. I loved every thing you showed us. The bearnaise looked a bit heavy but I'd still eat every drop. :)

  • At 11/07/2014 10:29 am, Anonymous ChopinandMysaucepan said…

    Dear Helen,

    I love these old world French dishes though prices are comparable to Felix which I think is one of the best mid range French in town with impeccable service and ambience.

  • At 11/07/2014 2:26 pm, Anonymous Lee Tran Lam said…

    I had always wondered about this place. Thanks for taking us on this short-haul excursion to France! It's interesting how French food was such a big deal in Sydney for so long and now it doesn't get nearly as much attention. Thanks for throwing the spotlight on this place (and yes, how fun is cracking open a brulee)?

  • At 11/07/2014 11:34 pm, Anonymous Amanda @ Gourmanda said…

    I've walked past a few times actually, but have never tried it because I always felt it was a little pricey for a "walk in on a whim" dining experience. Now that I've seen a few of the dishes though, it may well be worth specially making a booking for a nice dinner out!

  • At 11/07/2014 11:50 pm, Blogger Von said…

    I've always wanted to try this place! :) My bus passes it everyday haha.... The food looks great! Would love to try the escargots- I haven't had it much in Sydney!

  • At 11/08/2014 10:57 am, Anonymous Martine @ Chompchomp said…

    Oh yes you are so correct, but I dont call it a thwack, I call it a tap tap CRACK lol! I guess we all crack that toffee in our own ways!

  • At 11/09/2014 6:26 am, Blogger Choc Chip Uru @ Go Bake Yourself said…

    Haha when I try to crack toffee, I try to get an even line going through, just for self-satisfaction :P
    But then I taste the custard and just Ogre-style devour! Beautiful place to dine!

    Choc Chip Uru

  • At 11/11/2014 11:35 pm, Blogger Annie said…

    loving all the classic French dishes especially the creme brulee

  • At 4/01/2015 6:50 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The creme brulee is awesome, and the mixed seafood stew looks so heavenly. You obviously had a blast in the restaurant and with good reason! The French style of cooking and presenting food just makes one feel important as it takes a lot of skills and finesse to properly execute French cuisine.


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