Word on the street is that the fit-out for Franca cost a cool two and a half million bucks. Gliding through the restaurant in all its unbridled resplendence, it’s easy to admit that this was money very well spent.
To set foot in Franca is to be immediately whisked to the Belle Époque of European fine dining. It’s a veritable masterpiece of panelling, parquet, grand columns, vermillion velvet and old-world ceiling molding. The pièce de résistance, however, has to be the moss-green crescent-shaped booth seating, which is reminiscent of iconic London dining institution, the Ivy.
A booth is by far the chicest way to drink in l'atmosphère, as you sink back and watch the waiters and sommeliers romance the room with boundless joie de vivre. A Provençal Daiquiri is an elegant aperitif, blending Havana rum, lillet blanc, fresh rockmelon, and lavender tincture, garnished subtly with a single lavender stem.
Do not be tempted to go past the exhilarating pre-starters. The spanner crab and corn Portuguese tart features delicately sweet hand-picked crab meat encased in the flakiest, butteriest pastry you’ll ever have had. Foie gras macaron is a featherlight duck parfait spiked with Vadouvan spice and sauternes, meticulously piped between crisp macaron shells. (The expression “melts in your mouth” is trés passe here – it literally dissolves.)
Sturgeon caviar canelé is intense and delightfully strange. Inky in colour, bittersweet in flavour, it’s filled with whipped crème fraîche and topped with briney black sturgeon roe that’s an unadulterated taste of the sea. Best order a flute of Louis Roederer to accompany your selections for a truly unmissable bonus round. Progressing onto the official 'commencer' courses, do not go past the Moreton Bay bug unless you have very, very good reason. For example; a shellfish allergy. Anything less than actual anaphylaxis is unacceptable, for this is Franca’s best-selling dish; and it is outstanding.
Swimming in a pool of warm café dé Paris butter, with expertly brunoised eschalot, a generous quantity of garlic and chili, teeny tiny capers and fresh herbs, it's served with crusty baguette for mopping up after and its trés magnifique!
Glacier 51 toothfish with clam escabèche and green vegetables is so artfully plated it's almost a shame to eat it, but you must. It’s perfectly balanced in both flavour and texture and the scalloping snow-white flakes of toothfish are widely regarded as a delicacy. Found 2,000 metres below sea level, in the icy, volcanic waters of the Australian Antarctic, it’s often called the ‘wagyu’ of the sea, and is from a certified sustainable fishery.
For the vegetarians or mushroom lovers amongst us, plump golden pillows of pan-fried gnocchi are gently encouraged onto a bed of rich and creamy whipped chèvre, before being graced with crispy sage and mushrooms that had danced in butter just moments before.
If, as the evening comes to a close, you have room to indulge just once more, the chocolate and caramel brulée is so good it's criminal. Worlds apart from the dated caramelised custard that initially comes to mind, this divine creation is sans ramekin, beyond blow-torching, and topped with Little Marionette coffee ice cream and perfectly spherical shards of tuile.
Franca is an exemplary example of opulence without arrogance, a true jewel in Potts Points’ crown. Move over Paris - it’s midnight on Macleay Street.