Where: 102 Darby Street, Cooks Hill.
Prices: To start, $2.50 to $12.50; entrees, $18 to $23; beef, $34 to $38; mains, $34 to $36; sides, $8.50; desserts, $16, cheese, $12 for one, $28 for three.
Chefs: Thomas Green and Dylan Evans.
Wines: Well chosen and eclectic list of Australian, French, Italian, German and Spanish wines; 19 by glass.
Hours: Lunch, Friday; dinner, Tuesday to Saturday.
Vegetarian: Three snacks, one entree.
Bottom line: Entrée, main, dessert about $150 for two.
Wheelchair access: Good.
Last time we were at The Bistro there was a fresh breeze blowing through this popular Darby Street institution. We are back and the vibes are as invigorating as ever, but there’s now a settled, established air.
They are busy tonight with a large function in the next room. Linen-covered tables keep the noise level under control and the service in the main area is not suffering although it might have been a good idea if the waiter had not relied on memory and written our order down. Two dishes are mixed up; one was confirmed before it was served, but the prawn beignets didn’t arrive.
Fortunately the sweet corn and mushroom fritters with parmesan cream which came instead provide four scrumptious mouthfuls, so I don’t complain.
Warm, marinated olives – large fleshy Spanish, bright green Sicilians and tiny Niçoise – are an ideal choice to span the gap between ordering and the first course.
An entree of sauteed spanner crab ticks all the right boxes. Plenty of sweet crab meat, tiny crisp young artichokes, finely sliced fennel and basil providing a refreshing aniseed note.
A previous starter of crunchy pork-cheek kromesky shows up as a perfect partner to pinkly moist pork loin. You have to love the texture and flavour contrast from roasted almond pieces, sweet and creamy butternut pumpkin puree, tiny peas and double-peeled broad beans.
But the go-to dishes are all about beef. Tonight there’s a 250 gram sirloin, 200 gram eye fillet and 350 gram Scotch fillet, all carefully sourced from producers around Australia. Eye fillet can be disappointing but this one is bursting with flavour and cuts to reveal perfectly rested flesh, cooked medium rare. Caramelised roast onions and garlic puree come with all the steaks. Red wine sauce, my preference, is rich and unctuous and waiting in a tiny jug.
The non-beef mains really don’t need any extras but you might like some kipfler potatoes roasted in beef fat, garlic and rosemary or a dish of buttered green beans and asparagus to have with the steak. This kitchen knows how to cook greens – not too crisp, but still keeping the vibrancy.
I like that the number of wines by the glass has increased. A bottle is not always a good idea when there are just two diners. I’d just like my glass poured at the table so I can see the bottle.
The dessert list hasn’t changed much. There’s no panna cotta but the dark chocolate mousse is still there. There’s caramelised-banana tart with almond crumble, and passionfruit pavlova with in-season mango and berries appeals.
I just have to see if the raspberry soufflé is as good as I can remember and am not disappointed. It’s a texturally perfect, airy delight, rising well above the dish. The already intense raspberry flavour gets a boost from the raspberry coulis in a jug on the side.
There’s a confidence about this place that gives the impression they are here for the long haul. This is a worthy update to the already impressive Newcastle restaurant portfolio.
DELIGHTFUL: The revamped Bistro is a worthy addition to the Newcastle restaurant portfolio.PICTURE: MAX MASON-HUBERS