Franca, my dear: Sydney's most glamorous new restaurant
This new Potts Point brasserie breaks all the rules, in the best possible way, writes Elizabeth Meryment
It feels as though it’s been a long time since dining was glamorous.
The casual spirit that pervades Sydney restaurants now is so entrenched that it is perfectly acceptable to wear sneakers to a fine-diner. Getting dressed up for dinner seems almost superfluous, the domain of anniversaries or serious milestone birthdays. Any other occasion, forget it.
But not at Franca Brasserie. To step through the doors of this luxe new temple while not wearing something a little fancy is to miss an opportunity. Here is a place where high heels triumph, where a seat at the bar means a Bellini not a beer, and where it’s perfectly acceptable — nay, encouraged — to sup on oysters and caviar as though it’s 1999.
Dining rules? Yes, rewritten, again. What’s old is now new.
A lot has already been said about the $2.5 million splashed on Franca’s fit out, in the site that used to house the much more utilitarian Fratelli Fresh. You can see where the money has gone: the space is gorgeous. Slip into one of the jade-coloured leather banquettes or a plush red velvet chairs to appreciate the luxury. There’s petite brass lamps, white curtains, colonnades, parquetry floors, and art on the walls. The owners, who also operate Double Bay’s Pelicano, have reportedly signed a 20-year lease. Franca is here for the long haul.
It’s impressive and so too is executive chef Alexis Besseau’s menu. Besseau’s list reads classic French, but in reality his cooking is unencumbered by too much Old World saucing and instead reveals itself to be mostly contemporary Australian cuisine with a slight French accent. It’s a sensible and actually delicious menu.
Start, say with raw tuna, avocado and ponzu that’s simple in its perfection, the sweet purity of the fish matched by spots of, in turn, creamy avo and tangy ponzu. A rectangle of pork jowl with parsnip puree and pear is fabulously seasoned, rich and satisfying on cool spring nights.
I’ve heard people complain the mains are expensive, but ranging as they do from $34 through to $51, I’d have to disagree; if you don’t expect those prices you haven’t dined out in Sydney for 20 years. And what’s not to love about dishes of say, grass-fed eye fillet with king browns and jus, John Dory with cauliflower, capers and parsley, and corn-fed chicken with pomme purée, butter lettuce and apple?
Franca is the sort of place that encourages excesses. Order the frites and you will eat them all. Start with martinis and move onto Champagne. Don’t feel like dessert? Get a passionfruit soufflé with popcorn ice cream anyway.
Why not? It may be a while before you feel this glamorous again.
81 Macleay St, Potts Point