What do you get when you throw together good, wholesome French food in a casual bistro with water views and excellent table service?
You get a nice cafe, of course. In the case of my lunch with some lovely friends, it Cafe Nice (pronounced “niece” as in the French provencal city of Nice).
“We have to have the omelette, it’s really ooh la la!!” Fiona says.
“The bar menu is sooooooooooo worth it too!!” Eva enthusiastically adds.
“Well girls, I shall flirt with fate and put myself in your lovely hands today” I say with a grin.
Cafe Nice is a surprise addition to restaurateur Barry MacDonald‘s stable of Italian casual eateries all over Sydney that includes Cafe Sopra and green grocer Fratelli Fresh in Alexandria, Potts Point, Walsh Bay and Bridge street in the CBD, so likeable for its simple yet tasty pasta dishes.
The Italian-ness of Cafe Sopra is deliberately punctuated to the extent that owner Barry MacDonald concocts Italian names for his restaurant staff regardless of their nationality. Today in this French eatery, we have a charming waiter who hails from Argentina with a French-inspired name of ‘Sebastian’ (Cover image above).
His attentiveness and good-natured service eventually proves to be matched only by the beautiful flavours of the food.
Pate de foie canard is a thick slab of duck liver pate with pickled baby gherkins and crusty toast.
Rich and creamy with those unctuous, minerally and livery taste, this slab of duck liver pate on fresh toasted bread is good enough a starter for the four of us ~ what a perfect start to our Friday lunch!
I like the smoky aromas of the toasted bread and we order a second serve to help mop up that slab of duck liver pate.
I like the savoury flavours of an omelette de crab with foie gras butter. A round omelette bed is topped with chunks of tender crab meat with an enticing knob of foie gras butter melting away in the middle.
This is definitely a “go-to” dish that I would recommend from the menu.
It a beautiful Friday afternoon in Sydney and an icy cold Italian Menabrea birra brewed from barley malts and maize kernels is a light and refreshing lager.
What do they say? Good wine and good food always taste better when matched with great company. Today, we have all three.
I love peas especially in soups, stews and of course fried rice.
“Must have peas!!” Fiona says. “Peas wind back the clock on any dish for that retro look!”.
This side of peas is gently soft and I have not tried peas where their vibrant green has become olive in colour. I’m not complaining as it works with my steak.
The Cafe Nice fruits de mer fris for two come with battered fish fillets and school prawns.
My last experience with school prawns in a prominent Sydney Italian was utter disappointment. But not with this dish.
A battered fish fillet is light, crisp and goes wonderfully well with mayonnaise and tartare sauce.
The school prawns is fresh and crispy, so tasty with those heads and little eyes staring at you before you pop them into your mouth.
This is white wine and beer food at its best, and so Sydney too, on a sunny day like this with the weekend looming.
A 2007 Copa Santa Domaine Clavel from the former Languedoc region of France is fermented for 18 months in French oak.
I detect spice and chocolate hints on the nose, velvety and round in the mouth with complex fruits and a lingering minty finish. A well-chosen bottle, Marcus.
The casual French bistro style has me pining for a minute steak with red wine butter. Not the most charming looking dish with a thin cut of beef and the red wine butter melting on the top but it does the job.
One can quite easily overcook a thin piece of steak but my minute steak is right on the mark with a nice pink tinge inside. This calls for some kitchen skills, good timing and a very hot grill.
The savoury red wine butter with some freshly cracked black pepper is hitting the right spots with each mouthful of red Copa Santa.
A 2007 Chaveliers De Loudre Grand Cru from the Saint-Emilion town of Bordeaux is predominantly merlot and cabernet franc.
Definitely fruit-driven with ripened dark berries undertones, this wine is drinking beautifully with a bit of age resulting in subtle tannins.
The golden brown and salty shard of duck confit is as French as it comes.
“This is one of my favourite dishes here” Fiona exclaims.
As good as the food is, be forewarned. It’s a sunny Friday afternoon and volume level in the dining room today is loud.
A mixture of tourists, locals and business types creates the buzzing vibe of a cafe in full lunch-time throttle.
Thanks to Eva and Fi for a great restaurant recommendation and I would certainly be back again. Thanks also to our wait person ‘Sebastian’ who truly epitomizes the perfect host with his warmth and care.
Cafe Nice, this guy is probably one of your greatest assets around the dining room. Apart from good food, we will be coming back for his excellence in service and hospitality.
A quick check on the website of Cafe Nice and they are already taking bookings for Melbourne Cup and Christmas.
It is definitely a great spot to be on these occasions let alone the short stroll that we took after our lunch to Sydney Opera House.
This is how I like to spend my Friday afternoons in Sydney.
So dear readers, do you have a favourite French cafe in Sydney?
2 Phillip street, Circular Quay East
Sydney, New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 8248 9600
Lunch Monday to Friday 12pm – 3pm Dinner Monday to Saturday 5pm – 10pm