“There are all these restaurants making desserts with liquorice,” says chef Guillaume Brahimi to an assembled crowd of friends, colleagues and media at a lunch to launch his latest Bistro Guillaume restaurant. “But all anyone really wants is vanilla ice-cream with some chocolate sauce.” This statement tidily sums up what dining at Brahimi’s new downtown Sydney venture is all about: the classics.
Located on the ground floor of the über-corporate Suncorp Place (a 48-storey office tower on George Street near Wynyard train station in the CBD), the restaurant is capacious. Occupying much of the marble-floored foyer, it manages to completely blend into its surroundings, yet the diners – once inside – feel gratifyingly detached from workaday life. After all, it’s impossible to consider work when the real business at hand is selecting a bottle of Bordeaux.
Bistro Guillaume Sydney lives and breathes its French ethos from the black-and-white photos of Paris on the walls to the elegant Belle Époche-inspired interiors and the dapper Gallic wait-staff serving such dishes as duck parmentier and bouillabaisse. Importantly for any Francophile is the fact that you can buy a crusty baguette any time of day in the bistro bakery. It’s the only place outside of seaside Bronte the celebrated Iggy’s sourdough can be purchased, but everything else, from the tarts to the croissants, is made in-house.
The enormous restaurant is a series of spaces decked out with duck-egg-blue armchairs and banquettes, artfully tarnished mirrors and dark-wood tables with custom-designed chandeliers casting a gilded light on everything beneath. There’s the a take-away bakery counter, an impressive dining room with walls lines with wines and ample space from where to watch the Suncorp Building’s comings and goings.
This is a restaurant for long lunches, where steak frites, twice-baked cheese soufflé and cote de boeuf can be savoured alongside a bottle of Beaujolais. For an early business breakfast, you can book at Bistro Guillaume and avoid any awkward waiting around for a table. For those on the run, there’s a take-away counter doing a swift trade in croissants, croquet-monsieur and tartines. And at dinnertime, the chandeliers glint, glasses clink and you can almost imagine this is Paris.
Oh, and the ice-cream and chocolate sauce Brahimi mentioned? That would be three perfect profiteroles filled with ice-cream, the tiny black specks of vanilla visible, with a generous jug of deeply chocolatey sauce poured all over until not a hint of pastry can be seen. You really couldn’t possibly want anything else.
Bistro Guillaume, 259 George Street, Sydney.