Due to the number of places to eat in Sydney, it’s fairly uncommon for me to go to a restaurant or cafe more than once. Despite this, I have a few ‘favourite’ places (a word I don’t throw around often) which I frequent as much as I can. Bistro Papillon is a traditional French restaurant specialising in Alsace cuisine, which my brother first took me to a few years ago, which I’ve visited time and again for its lovely service, cosy ambience and delicious food.
The ambience here is simple and chic, with wall decorations that you might find in a Montmarte establishment. The waiters speak English in accented French, and say ‘bon appetit’, as they serve your meal.
It was the midst of winter on my most recent visit, and I had been craving some hearty European food to keep warm. A and I came here on a weeknight after work, with a prior reservation. At a little after 6pm, there were already a few diners in the restaurant. We were greeted as soon as we entered the restaurant, and then seated. Bistro Papillon has such a good menu that we looked at it for a long time, while deciding what to order.
After deciding upon the Cassoulet Toulousain and the Coq Au Vin et Spaetzle Maison, we were persuaded into eating an entree by the waiter, because he said the mains would take 20 minutes or so, and so we ordered a Baguette with Olive Oil ($6) for an entree.
The baguette was not something I had really intended to order, and nor would I usually go to the length of ordering bread as an entree if I had to pay for it. Nonetheless, it was fresh, with a crusty exterior and soft yeasty middle. It was pleasant to eat, dipped in the olive oil.
Coq Au Vin is probably one of my favourite dishes. I’m not the kind of person who always orders the same dish at a restaurant, but I have an unparalleled love for this chicken dish, such that I turn into this kind of person. Bistro Papillon’s version has a deep red wine flavour, with carrots, mushroom and chicken thigh pieces that remained moist on the inside. It’s a rich and heavy dish that I wouldn’t recommend to people who don’t like red wine.
The coq au vin was served with spatzle maison on the side. This is a newish (new since my last visit) addition to the coq au vin, and a welcome one. Spatzle is a soft egg noodle that strongly resembles mac and cheese in appearance. The addition of spatzle is a reminder of their Alsace influence in a menu mostly dominated by French dishes. The spatzle was pan fried with a crisp golden layer, and buttery flavour. Overall, it had a very simple, yet pleasant taste.
The Cassoulet was a confit of duck and pork with white beans and vegetables. The cassoulet was served in a tomato based sauce, with firm pork sausage that was at once hearty and comforting.
A and I finished every last bit of our mains and were satiated after this, but because we are gluttons, and because we were eating dinner at a French restaurant, we decided to order dessert. We decided on Tarte Tatin Aux Pommes ($16) to share.
Tarte tatin is an upside down pie, which is made with various caramelized fruits. Pear and apple are common ingredients. The tarte tatin at Bistro Papillon is served warm with Chantilly, and rum and raisin ice cream. The texture of the apples were soft, with a strong and sweet apple flavour that worked perfectly with the rum and raisin ice cream, which had a strong liqueur flavour. The bottom of the pastry was caramelised, with a hard, flaky crust. What I enjoyed most was the contrasting temperatures of the cold ice cream and warm apple pie.
Unlike other restaurants in Sydney, the quality of service and food at Bistro Papillon has not declined in the passing years, which is probably what makes it a classic Sydney establishment that will likely be around for years to come.
Address: 98 Clarence Street, Sydney CBD
Opening hours: Lunch and dinner Monday to Friday, dinner Saturday, closed Sunday.
Website: Bistro Papillon