It’s hard to imagine the team from Fratelli Fresh doing wrong. They sell beautiful high-quality Italian produce at their stores, and their restaurants ride the wave of Sydney’s embrace of bistro-style cuisine, a step down from formal fine dining but certainly not casual either. Their food, full of flavour, combines European authenticity with a casual and confident Australian flair.
And so it is with their latest restaurant, Cafe Nice, tucked away near Circular Quay above an Indian restaurant. It looks to me like the space was repurposed from a hotel or serviced apartment function room, it has that shape and the boring square recessed lights in the ceiling. Below, they’ve gone all French cafe. I found it somewhat tacky rather than cool-ironic, particularly the pink neon sign, but the food is the important thing.
Our zucchini flower appetizer was delicious as was the pissaladière, caramelised onions with anchovies on a flaky pastry, an alchemic delight. We were trying to avoid a bad sauvignon blanc and asked the waiter what the cheapest French wine (a sav blanc) was like. I could see his face drawing inwards to recall the wine and then try to describe its various flavours, concluding that it was an inoffensive drinking wine, neither here nor there, but good enough. He was right, and we loved his effort and description.
For mains, my pal had steak and frites, I had mulloway with a cauliflower puree, perfectly seared and crispy skin, and full of flavour. This with a gorgeous side of peas.
The most exciting thing is its location. Circular Quay is filled with really over-priced restaurants, rather a lot with mediocre food. The restaurants in the Opera House Quay are a good fast option (always crowded and buzzy) but sometimes before a show, it’s nice to have a bit more space, and without having to pay extra for it. For me, Cafe Nice is the perfect pre-show meal: tasty, not fussy, reasonably priced and great service. I’ll be back!