Bistro Moncur Woollahra
There’s something very warm and inviting about a French restaurant when you can predict in advance that certain menu items you absolutely adore will remain untouched and that you’ll be guaranteed a pleasurable experience without having to deal with too much of the unknown. Bistro Moncur, situated in the heart of Woollahra, and an instution here in Sydney is exactly such a place where diners eagerly return to reassuringly get a taste of their favourite, familiar French dishes and also be surprised by something fresh and new in a dining setting that has also maintained a lot of its original appeal and sense of familiarty. It had been almost two years since mon mari and I had returned to Bistro Moncur and on this particular Friday evening we were there to celebrate the day we met in Melbourne 22 long years ago only to find that the bistro itself was also celebrating its 25 year anniversary which was a lovely surprise to us indeed. So here we were back at one of our favourite French restaurants’, to find that despite a change of hands, head chef and a renovation that so much of the restaurant’s original 1930’s inspiration and décor was still there. Most importantly, however, was the relatively unchanged menu which still includes our beloved items that we especially come back to enjoy along with the Bistro’s incredible wine selection and of course lovely service and an ambience that is hard to resist.
Bistro Moncur, situated inside the Woollahra hotel, fits in perfectly well with the old world Victorian Terrace and vintage tree lined streets of this historic area. Moncur’s 1930’s Parisian bistro appeal and inspiration elevates the French dining experience as the bistro’s original black and white mural, created by Michael Fitzjames in 1993 when the bistro opened, depicts a whimsical scene of people dining and an arched caveau wooden panelled ceiling embraces and encourages one to linger in the space for longer. The central and original dining area, filled with neatly aligned wooden chairs and tables and an inviting art deco inspired bar, flanked with stunning Calcutta marble, has recently been shifted to the side so as to accommodate an entry way that leads into the new and stunning bar and dining area.
The newly renovated dining space, is beautiful to say the least and calls to mind a modern, art deco-chic take on the hall of mirrors in Versaille with smoky mirrored walls situated above banquette dining tables and a feature wall of stunning wine bottles that rest perfectly in their own little installations that together create the impression of a gallery wall. The art deco and Paris bar theme of the original dining have been tied in to the new dining room with touches of black and white framed art that rests nicely above dining tables and chairs. A charming open planned bar, centred perfectly in the bar dining lounge area, adds additional warmth, cosiness and a buzz of activity as bar men shuffle around the space – preparing cocktails for the young, hip crowd chatting happily away at their tables by the bar while frothing milk for lattes at the vintage inspired café style coffee machine to serve to the more sophisticated and demure patrons in the main dining area.
The black, white, wood and muted tones of the original dining room have been tied in harmoniously into the new space with black and white framed art above the banquettes and snippets of Michael Fitzjames mural that curves outwards and playfully above another dining zone by the bistro’s French windows. The banquettes and dining chairs upholstered in Paris beige and the muted blue you see on the roof tops of Paris’ Haussmann buildings bring some of the old world Parisian charm into the space and the large framed print of an archway style entry way in Versailles offers perhaps another nod to the inspiration behind this new space. As mon mari and I were seated in the lovely and intimate new banquette dining area and offered the bistro’s love-heart inspired paper black and white menu with my all time bistro favourites I had the sense that we were here only recently and happy to continue the story.
Bistro Moncur’s concise yet exciting menu is impressive to say the least and their wine list or book of wine I should say is also outstanding with a wonderful selection of Australian and sought after French wine’s to choose from. Bistro Moncur’s popular dishes are still reassuringly there since being fixed on to the menu by original owner and chef Damien Pignolet who appeared on SBS’s French Food Safari and shared his family Nicoise salad recipe. Entrees tempt and excite and can leave you in a state of indecision with Moncur’s heavenly French Onion Souffle Gratin, Hand Cut Steak Tartare, Barossa Chicken Liver Pate and divine Spanner Crab and Sweet Corn Omelette with Beurre Noisette to choose from. Moncur’s newish entrée items such as the Buffalo Mozzarella with Glazed Fig, Witlof Salad and Vincotta Dressing and the Linguine with Chilli, Anchovies and Tomatoes adds a dash of Italian inspiration to the menu while the Bistro’s own Salmon Marinated in Sauvignon Blanc and Herbs entrée menu item transports you to a fine restaurant by the sea somewhere in France’s Cote D’Azure on breezy and warm summers day.
Bistro Moncur’s main menu amplifies ones taste and joy factor a few degrees higher with their Grilled Sirloin with their signature Cafe de Paris butter, Prime Fillet Steak with Sauce Béarnaise and Minute Steak with Wine Merchants. Moncur’s Pan Fried Barramundi Fillet with Beurre Noisette item and their own Pure Pork Sausages with Potato Puree and Lyonnaise Onions offers the meat or fish lover a taste of something extra special while those in the mood for French with a Middle Eastern twist will opt for Rack of Lamb, spiced eggplant, tabbouleh and tahini remoulade. For their 25th year anniversary, Bistro Moncur offers diners an additional anniversary 3 course menu created by Damien Pignolet for $100pp or $150pp including wine. The special menu includes Damien’s Marinated Salmon, Confit Duck leg with duck sausage sorrel sauce and potato galette and for dessert raspberry and Toasted almond tart with a suggestion of the perfect wine to pair with each dish. Bistro Moncur’s menu isn’t exactly cheap and might make the budget sensitive diner’s eyes pop out and into their pricey wine glass where entrees start from $19-$36 and mains from $34-$49 and where you can spend $100 on average per person. The hefty price, however, can be justified for a special occasion and by the fact that the food and service here is outstanding and leaves a lasting and satisfying impression.
On the evening, mon mari and I opted for our Bistro Moncur favourites – the dishes we always love to reassuringly order over and over again here as they are exquisitely prepared to heavenly French perfection. For entrees we enjoyed the celestial, creamy and exquisite French Onion Souffle Gratin and the silky and delectable Barossa Chicken Liver Pate with pickled cornichons, cherries and brioche and with the house bread and butter offered to us while we waited for our entrees to arrive – now that’s what I call great hospitality. For mains we delighted in our choices of Bistro Moncur’s Pure pork sausages served in a delectable rich gravy with potato puree and Lyonnaise onions and the unforgettably superb Prime fillet steak with sauce béarnaise – prepared to absolute delicious buttery and tarogony perfection. Our meals were paired beautifully with a stunning glass of Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot from Margaret River. For dessert, we shared our mutual favourite – the decadent and melt in your mouth Chocolate and a vanilla centred mousse with hazelnut praline, almond nougatine and coffee ice cream presented like art on a plate and left us wanting more. Every dish was served to well timed perfection and presented like art on a plate and every mouthful a pleasure and a reminder of the magnificence and joy of true French cuisine.
Bistro cooking is homely, warm and comforting – it’s a traditional inspired cuisine that has an earthy and provincial quality with a dash of sophistication accompanied by a service that is attentive and brisk but allows you to savour the moment and take your time. This notion of the bistro is certainly represented here at Bistro Moncur where the casual simplicity of bistro dining is given an added dose of classiness and chic with an outstanding wine list to compliment its impeccable menu. I have thought for quite some time now that the name “Moncur” was derived from the French words mon for my and coeur for heart and perhaps one day I’ll find out for sure and makes sense to me anyway as I believe the bistro holds a special place in their diners’ heart. Bistro Moncur has stood the test of time with a loyal, adoring and returning clientele who have celebrated everything and anything from birthdays, anniversary’s, engagements to weddings here or just keep coming back for a taste of something special in a setting that is as superb as the service and cuisine served here. As Michel De Montaigne once said, “The art of dining well is no slight art, the pleasure no slight pleasure”. Dear readers, are you entranced by Bistro Moncur inspired by the bistro’s of Paris, France?
116A Queen Street Woollahra, NSW T: 02 9327 9713