Summer in Paris is a special thing, long summer days, fresh baguettes, markets, fashion, museums, endless walks (minus the dog poo!) and street café’s perfect for people watching over a glass of wine. For some, this is a cherished memory of holidays gone by, for others it is the European holiday you didn’t get to take, but for us all there is a solution – a trip to Bistro St Jacques.
The new menu is like a French hug on a plate (socially distanced of course). Garry Prebble is front of house and welcomes us with a glass of Bailly Lapierre, which is the birthplace of the AOC Cremant de Bourgogne. It’s a unique sparkling wine which is creamy on the palate but has great structure and minerality from its underground quarry stone origins. This start says a lot. We all know champagne, but isn’t it good to be pushed outside of our knowledge boundaries to try something familiar, yet a little different?
Classically trained chef Brett Jeffery does the same with the new menu. You shouldn’t mess with freshly shucked Pambula oysters. They don’t. It’s served with a champagne vinegar and shallot dressing which adds a rounded sweetness. Their signature dish of twice-baked goats cheese soufflé is served plated, with a parsley and butter pea sauce begging to be mopped up with their house made bread. Sadly, none of either is left! Croquilles St Jacques scallops arrive in their shell, seared, and served with a duxelle & gruyère béchamel gratinée. It’s been on the menu for seven years. No reinvention needed.
Rather than go for predicable steak and frites, we opt for the cassoulet. The portion size is modest. The base is a rich layer of slowly cooked haricot beans, garlic pork sausage and speck. It’s crowned with a single confit duck leg and the addition of fennel crumb pangrattato adds a textural layer. This is not a dish you need to fear, it simply means you have room for the fries.
Now let’s be clear these are not ordinary potatoes. They are organic Sebago. Originating in South America, these babies are so amazing… golden, fat, brown, crispy, soft and sweet. You may just forget you ordered your cassoulet. When simple things are done well, brilliantly even, we notice.
Our other pick was the chicken. Its served with pan roasted mushrooms, spek and creamy dijon mustard sauce with swede & leek purée.
It wouldn’t be France if we didn’t order cheese! We do. The truffle pecorino and Roquefort scream ‘we are still in Europe’ (not Redfern). An instagram worthy torta follows. A sphere of armagnac ice cream tops a pretty torta baked with pear and almond. It’s a traditional combination and executed well.
Every neighbourhood needs its local gem and this is one of them. From the racks of wine adorning the walls, to the dark wooden tables, red and white checked table cloths along with oversize meshed hanging lights. Its cozy, busy and bustling and oh so French. We should add, its oh so delicious and oh so, we are coming back.
Bistro St Jacques
96 Pitt Street, Redfern, Sydney 2016
Hours: Wed: 5:30pm – late, Thu: 5:30pm – late, Fri: lunch 12pm, dinner 5:30pm, Sat: lunch 12pm, dinner 5:30pm, Sun: lunch 12pm, dinner 5:30pm