Robb Review: Loulou Bistro, Boulangerie & Traiteur
Local French fare finds its home in Milsons Point.
The local French bistro should be a familiar face, however sometimes that face can start to look like a caricature. Features are exaggerated in a way to let you — the diner — know that you’re somewhere French.
Here in Sydney’s Milson’s Point, Loulou — a bistro, boulangerie and traiteur — masterfully avoids those tired, old follies and epitomises the idea of local French through its sleek design, contemporary plating and holistic, very European approach to all-day eating.
Throughout the day, the boulangerie, headed by Brendon Woodward (formerly bread Ahead Bakery London) slings fresh bread and bakery items — think baguettes, croissants and batards paired with coffee from St. Ali. Attached, at the traiteur, headed by French-born and trained butcher and chef Cyprien Picard (formerly of Victor Churchill), one can pick up house-made produces such as Toulouse sausage and country terrine, chicken liver parfait, duck pithivier, family quiches, rotisserie chickens.
While the daytime operations of Loulou serve as a one-stop Francophile shop, it’s the bistro and its after-dark offering that has seen it draw acclaim.
Head Chef Billy Hannigan, formerly of Bistro Guillaume and The Ledbury London, leads diners through the familiar narrative of French dining with a tightly considered menu of classics, reworked for a modern audience.
As all good things often begin we started with the bread and cultured butter ($6). With the attached boulangerie and the seriousness with which the French approach baked goods, one can expect the simplicity of the opening mouthful to meet expectations.
Beyond, the menu takes on board the excellence of Australian produce and displays it in that sophisticated, unimpeded approach. Here, Sydney rock oysters ($36/$72), are served with a mignonette, while a yellowfin tuna, lemon and verjus ($27) echoes the same sentiments of produce-driven simplicity.
From the hors d’oeuvres comes a number of classics including a hand-cut steak tartare with potato crisps ($26) and a twice-baked Roquefort soufflé ($28). Here, the former is offered forward with guests having to mix the glossy egg yolk through the hand-cut steak. A tang from the potato crisps cuts through the creamy texture of the protein combination. The souffle is, as the name suggests, twice baked in order to achieve a lightness previously only available in the form of canned-whip cheese. This, a crude comparison for what is an elevated dish.
Looking up from the plates for a moment, Loulou’s warm and welcoming approach is supported by the richly layered design and interiors by H&E Architects (Chiswick, Woollahra; Barangaroo House). Here, the decor incorporates both traditional and contemporary detailing and aesthetics to create a familiar French-inspired setting. Outside, detailed framed glazing comes together with brass accents through to a curved inset entry with mosaic marble floor, reminiscent of a French shopfront. Inside the bistro, a variety of seating options – bar, banquette, loose, and large share tables – create different experiences within the one open space.
The boulangerie and traiteur section of the menu offers the working-class classics of escargot and lardo ($18), saucisson sec ($14) and duck and orange pate and warm brioche ($24), however, it’s the ‘plats’ that sees an ensemble all-star cast of your favourite French players.
Of the cast, the John Dory farçi, sauce Champagne ($50), steals the show, with fillets of fish wrapped in spinach, poached, and served with a Champagne cream sauce further elevated (and speckled) with caviar.
The old-faithful support of the steak frites with au poivre vert sauce ($54) is, as you’d expect. The steak cooked to one’s liking (perfectly) is accompanied by a bed of thinly cut fries while the green peppercorn sauce is robust enough to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the hearty workman’s offering.
The closing credits featured a crème caramel ($18), which had the caramel in question pushed almost to the brink of bitterness. It’s that want from the team at Loulou to squeeze the essence out of these French classics that should keep locals, and wider Sydneysiders alike, coming back.
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