Bistro Rex, the latest French dining room to hit Potts Point, is hard to fault. More than that, it offers a casual alternative to some of Sydney's more theatrical restaurants: an unpretentious space serving timeless French food on simple white plates.
The eatery doesn't feel a need to distract diners with design, but the space is still impressive. You're dining in Macleay Street's former Commonwealth Bank building, so there are large pillars between the tables, marble accents, and wood-framed mirrors high on the walls. It's all pretty luxurious — especially with the Chesterfield booths in the corner — but there's more than enough casual seating to balance it out, with rows of wooden tables and a few spots to dine at the bar.
Because you're in a French restaurant, order the chicken liver parfait ($21). It's not particularly rich here; instead it's light, creamy, and served with sweet and sour jelly. The scallops with cashew and curry leaf ($26) are silky and complemented by the sweetness of leek on the plate. Chefs Jo Ward and Michelle Powell obviously know what they're doing with seafood, because the market fish of the day (on our visit, it's snapper) is perfect, flaking easily when the cutlery hits and swimming in just the right amount of sauce.
The steak frites with Café de Paris ($39) is served spot-on medium-rare and drenched in butter — it's a classic combination, and why would you alter it? Main meals are on the heavier side, so order the Nashi pear salad with celery, chicory and hazelnuts ($16) to lighten things up a bit, and match your dish to a glass off the predominantly French wine list (the front page can be ordered by the glass, carafe or bottle). On the pass there's a single truffle in a glass dome — ask for it to be shaved over anything and everything. .
None of the four options on the dessert menu are particularly eye-catching on paper, but all are delicious once they arrive — and are an unexpected highlight of the meal. Skip the cheese course and order the hazelnut parfait with dacquoise banana cream ($14); it's served with a chocolate biscuit shard and topped with banana cream, which balances the sweet and slightly savoury. The apple tarte Tatin ($14) arrives warm, sweet and sticky – there's a refreshing quenelle of choc-mint ice cream on the side. If you're not a dessert person, try the old-fashioned that's been lightly stirred with cold-brew coffee ($14).
You could take your parents, friends, love interest or colleagues to Bistro Rex. Come for lunch on the weekend. Come for dinner on a Tuesday. Bring everyone. Order dessert.