Bitton Cafe & Bistro, Alexandria, Sydney.WHOPerry Keyes, singer-songwriter from Waterloo
WHEREBitton Gourmet, Erskineville
WHY”It’s a French cafe. I like to go there of a night because I never really knew much about French food and French people, so it’s a little pocket of exotica. I’m the last guy to go to a French restaurant. I’m not really a guy who goes out for dinner that much, I’m more of a daytime guy. I live in Waterloo and we never had many French restaurants in that part of town, so these things came late to me in life. I’ve got a friend who took me there.
I like the food, it’s a pretty informal environment – very open – the staff are lovely, they’re French and you can sit inside or outside.
In Bitton you still see a bit of the clash of the area – a blend of housing commission and new arrivals in the area. I love being able to look at the people that walk past.”
WHAT”It’s basically the beef-eye steak for me: it’s got a Bearnaise sauce, I have that with salad and I guess I’m supposed to say pommes frites, but they’re chips. In a way – and they’re not going to like me saying this – I have an upgraded counter meal.
They have this great bread-and-butter pudding and really good wine.
I’m not a wine head so I tend to follow my mates’ recommendations.
I’m just glad this wasn’t 10 years ago or I’d be recommending the Rusty Shovel at Kensington RSL!
I’m a single man living alone, so my stuff is pretty straight up. I can do a curry, a lamb korma, and pasta – it’s pretty basic. I only have to please myself, so you take a lot of shortcuts.”
ABOUT”I have a new album, Funnyholt, coming out in January. I’ll be doing a show at Sydney Festival on January 18 in the Aurora tent, with a capacity of 600 – it’s the main tent. They said they’d put us in the big tent so that’s how I describe it to people.
It involves more theatrical elements with film and audio and an expanded band, nine piece with strings. We’re taking this theatrical show hopefully around Australia. We’d be looking at doing that from closer to the middle of the year.”
BITTON GOURMET36-37A Copeland Street, Alexandria, 9519 5111, bittongourmet整形美容医院m.au
Three stars out of five
3 Bloody good
2 Comme ci, comme ca
1 Non, merci
I had the dubious pleasure of trying Qantas’ new economy-class offerings last week: an assortment of plastic trays filled with variously frazzled and tasty pieces of meat and fish. It was a strange experience and one that drummed home how heavily airlines are forced to rely on pre-packaged food. Serving 2 million meals at 30,000 feet is an undeniable logistical challenge, no doubt, but there is another thing about it that is equally undeniable when it comes to longhaul cattle-class dining: it propels normal, sea-level cooking with fresh ingredients into pure luxury status. A simple tomato salad or proper French fry is classy after messing around with plastic peel lids and stamp-sized slices of cheese for 13 hours.
That isn’t to say Bitton Gourmet was made better because it followed aeroplane food. Not at all. The French stalwart is simply a classy bolthole unto itself, a business-forward establishment with its heart firmly lodged in Paris and its brains in its cleverly engineered and long-standing inner west restaurant-cum-cafe-cum-shop.
Our picker this week, Perry Keyes, mused at how unlikely he is as a restaurant recommender, but I beg to differ. Bitton is a family place, a couples’ place, a celebration place, a place to have a simple coffee. It’s reliable and smart, inexpensive and not pedestrian. It looks out onto trees and grass and feels neighbourhoodly, European and unpretentious – good traits that Erskineville has a habit of bringing out among its local businesses.
So, a la Keyes, we have to have the $29 steak frites – an eye fillet with pepper sauce and chips – and then add French favourites foie gras, melon salad, steak tartare, yet more frites and tarte tatin to our order.
Foie gras is a rare, if fraught, cameo on menus here, and is treated as such, with just a small amount filing ravioli with mushrooms, sitting in a clear consomme. I’m all for its delicate treatment.
My southern French-themed melon and jamon is turned into a salad, with glistening pieces of wine jelly and balsamic vinegar. Our raw steak is a little tame, with not enough punch and acid for me. The lean menu is dotted with products in bold print – they’re available to buy from restaurateur David Bitton’s in-house store. As are gift cards. As is his food consultancy expertise. And, never one to miss a trick, Bitton has a 1300 phone number that ends, bien sur, in BITTON.
Children have more than a look in, with a blackboard paint-daubed room to chalk all over and mess about in, and in the early hours are surrounded by their own, eating bowls of penne and sweet pancakes.
On the main menu, alongside the steak, a chicken ballotine with mushroom ragut and kale is caramelly and nutty, autumnal even, and a bowl of gnocchi with asparagus and spinach is a handsome dish, with its vivid green, fried gnocchi – which have a pancakey, but not at all unlikeable, character – and curling parmesan.
But back to the steak. It’s a big, podgy, pillowy cut of a thing, pink in all the right parts and not fatty nor overfed-tasting. Pepper sauce, frites and dijony vinaigrette are an unbreakable union alongside the meat. Who can go wrong with that combination?
Last but not least, a special mention to the staff. I know, I know, a French accent just seems to rule the roost when it comes to service (and who cannot love a complementary mini ramekin of creme brulee towards the evening’s close?). But the waiters were so charming, charismatic and good fun that they’ll doubtless have me going back for an encore.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Wuxi Plastic Surgery Hospital.