When you think of elegant, fancy and high-class food, French food is typically the go-to cuisine – and for good reason. Also known as grande cuisine, haute cuisine started in 16th century France and focuses on perfectly cooking the most high-quality ingredients with impeccable presentation.
Since then, it has put French cooking on the map when it comes to the most decadent, delicious and flavoursome food. But you don’t have to travel across the pond to experience this incredible food! With a long list of top-quality establishments, here’s where you will find the best French restaurants in Sydney.
But first, here is everything you need to know about this incredible cuisine.
A French restaurant is called a brasserie. These types of restaurants are known for their relaxed atmosphere and tables draped with traditional white linen. The word ‘brasserie’ is thought to have stemmed from the word ‘brewery’ as these restaurants used to brew their own beer on-site.
Some popular French dishes you would have most likely heard before such as French onion soup, chicken confit, soufflé, steak frites and the café-favourite: croque monsieur. However, there are many other popular French dishes that might not ring a bell such as duck à l’orange, bœuf bourguignon, lamb navarin, tarte tatin and Paris-brest, all absolutely delicious.
With a rich history in France since the 18th century, ratatouille is a traditional French meal that you will most likely find on any French menu. Lobster bisque is an incredibly flavourful soup that also has a long tradition in French cooking. Other traditional French dishes include chateaubriand (sliced grilled tenderloin steak), Coq au Vin (chicken braised in red wine), salade niçoise (basically a French Caesar salad) and bouillabaisse (a delicious fish stew).
French cuisine has an extremely wide amount of dishes, but there are a few dishes that you will typically see on a menu when dining at a French restaurant. Coq au Vin is one dish you will most likely spot, which is chicken, bacon lardons, garlic, onion and mushrooms braised in red wine with herbs.
You would also see bœuf bourguignon, which is a rich beef stew with pearl onions, garlic (of course), mushrooms and red wine. And as France is ‘the country of love’, expect beautifully sweet desserts. This includes chocolate soufflé, crème brûlée, mille-feuille, profiteroles, crêpes, apple tarte tatin (tart), crème au caramel and babas au rhum (cake drenched in syrup).
Now here is where to find the best French restaurants in Sydney that will have you saying “je ne mangerai plus que de la nourriture Française à partir de maintenant!”.
Bistro St Jacques has built its strong reputation as one of the best French restaurants in Sydney by consistently serving unpretentious French cuisine with clear and straightforward flavour combinations. It offers an authentic dining experience, complete with the classic French bistro theme you can expect to see when walking down Champs-Élysées (the most famous street in Paris).
With an impressive menu inspired by Southern-French cooking, designed by their prestigious head chef Brett Jeffrey, Bistro St Jacques brings Paris to Redfern. We recommend ordering their gnocchi à la Parisienne with slow-roasted butternut pumpkin and spring vegetables, which is drizzled in herb vinaigrette and finished with Roquefort sheep milk cheese (one of the world’s best blue cheeses!).
Another standout on their menu is the Pièce du boucher accompagnée de pommes de terre nouvelles avec sauce du Chef, which might be a little tricky to order depending on how good your French is. It’s a delicious plate of grass-fed beef steak with potato garnished and served with Chef’s sauce. But make sure you save room for their mini tarte au citron made with a raspberry and Cointreau jelly, cream chantilly and crystallised citrus peel.
Against the magical backdrop of the breath-taking Ripples Chowder Bay and pristine glistening ocean, L’Heritage is the perfect French restaurant for a romantic lunch or night out. It symbolises the perfect harmony of rich French heritage with the Australian heritage of the stunning Chowder Bay.
For the perfect start to your main, you have to order the French classic: escargots. It features a plate of snails that have been poached in court bouillon and then roasted with confit garlic and persillade butter and served with slices of baked baguette.
For mains, we recommend their Barramundi poêlée, which is pan-fried Barramundi served with grilled asparagus, cauliflower purée and drizzled with a lemon sauce vièrge. Their entrecôte frites are also a must! It features a tender 250 gram piece of scotch fillet (with a marble score of 4) that is flambéed in cognac and served with pommes frites and a side of black peppercorn sauce.
The best way to describe Restaurant Hubert is that it’s a love letter to lavish nights out. Once entering through their doors and strolling down their elegant staircase and past their grand piano, you’ll find yourself completely immersed in the old-world glamour and glitz of this decadent French restaurant.
For an authentic French dining experience, you have to try the duck à l’orange made with pan-fried wollemi duck breast which is then over-roasted in delicious orange sauce. We also recommend their côte de boeuf. It’s a massive 1 kilogram Rangers Valley ribeye steak served with a side of their homemade béarnaise sauce! If you’re a steak fan, then check out where to find the best steak in Sydney.
And no steak dish is complete without a side of pommes frites (French fries) and a fresh salad like their salade d’endives. Once it’s time for dessert, you absolutely have to try their classic mille-feuille featuring layers of delicious pastry, fresh strawberry filling and topped with lemongrass cream. Their crème caramel made with smooth caramel and egg custard is also a must-try as well!
Even though it hasn’t had a long history in Sydney as some of the other French restaurants on our list, Porcine has still managed to earn itself a strong reputation in the dining scene. The secret to the success of Porcine is simple: traditional French cooking techniques combined with simple, high-quality ingredients.
A very popular dish on their menu is their pâte en croûte, which is another traditional French dish consisting of pâte made from ox tongue and foie gras (duck/goose liver) which is then wrapped in pastry and gently baked in an oven. While you’re waiting for your main, we recommend starting with an entrée of their rock oysters with smoked eel vinegar.
For dessert, Porcine offers a beautiful créme caramel infused with a sublime coffee flavour. If you’re not a dessert person, then finish your meal with their small cheese platter instead. The drink menu at Porcine is also expansive, offering a wide selection of reds, whites, sparkling, digestifs, beers and cocktails.
In the heart of Sydney CBD is Felix, a modern French seafood restaurant that is one of the best ways to experience Parisian dining without travelling to Paris. Felix features an elegant interior with French-imported chandeliers, a wine room, sleek white linen tables and the enticing aroma of baskets filled with freshly baked baguettes.
For the quintessential Felix experience, we recommend ordering their le grand – and grand it is. It features a decadent offering of Yamba prawns, spanner crab, shucked oysters and Balmain bugs, drizzled in mignonette dressing and served with Marie Rose sauce.
The only downside of their dessert menu is deciding on what you want to order! There are standout desserts such as their apple tarte tatin served with calvados crème fraîche and cinnamon ice cream, and their raspberry soufflé with a side of homemade pistachio ice cream.
Tucked away along Spice Alley in Chippendale is Gavroche, another strong contender for one of the best French restaurants in Sydney. This French brasserie has a unique way of eloquently showcasing the romance of traditional French cuisine. From the moment your first course arrives, you will fall head over heels in love with Gavroche.
When browsing their menu, we recommend ordering their three course risotto. It starts with a delicious risotto that is made with 24 month-aged Gruyère de Comté cheese and truffle. The second course is moules, which is a beautiful serving of mussels with a side of pommes frites. The third course is finished with canard confit, which is a succulent duck leg confit that is served with mashed potatoes and a side of red wine duck jus.
As it’s almost considered a sin to leave a French restaurant without ordering dessert, we recommend trying their traditional crêpes suzette flambées, which is flambée crêpes dressed with grand-marnier sauce. Another classic French dessert is their Paris brest, a ring of pâte à choux (choux pastry) that is filled with delicious hazelnut mousseline.
Nestled amongst the hustle and bustle of Potts Point is Bistrot 916, which absolutely nails the French atmosphere from their candy pink table cloths to their authentic French menu. This seafood brasserie features head chef Dan Pepperell, who is also the head chef at 10 William St and Restaurant Hubert.
The strength of Bistrot 916 is their focus on mastering French specialties, whether it’s an entrée of lamb’s brains with smoked eel mayonnaise, scallop ceviche and lait de tigre for main, or crème glacée de banane for dessert.
Bistrot 916 also features a huge and impressive wine list, with a selection that includes champagne, reds, whites and sparkling from many regions across France such as Burgandy and Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
French cuisine has always, and will always capture our fascination for gourmet dining in a romantic atmosphere. Whether it’s an authentic rendition or a modern take on an old classic, French food has earned the well-deserved reputation of being one of the world’s best cuisines.
And now that you know where Sydney’s best French restaurants are, book yourself a table and experience Parisian dining at its finest!