To quote a song from the OG Kylie, it was love at first sight with Le Foote. And thank god, because expectations were at an all time high for this part Parisian wine bar, part Mediterranean grill. Word on the street is that it's Sydney’s hottest opening this year.
After all, Le Foote is a Swillhouse venue – they're the team behind some of Sydney’s most on-point venues including red-hued old-world bistro Hubert, and good-times-only Italian joint Alberto's Lounge. It’s been a heck of a long time coming, with more than two years of planning and setbacks. Which makes sense, when you consider that Le Foote has taken over the historic Phillip’s Foote restaurant in the Rocks. All that sandstone, while gorgeous, ain’t forgiving.
At last, the red curtains opened. And what a show.
In the opening two months we’ve visited Le Foote four times, drawn to the site like a moth to a flame. The first thing you need to know is that Le Foote is big. Not in the open-plan Palm Beach house kinda way, but with nooks and crannies and paths going here, there and everywhere. Walking in it feels like you’re venturing down a rabbit hole. This is a Swillhouse world, and one we’re very glad to be in.
The first time, we sat in the upstairs bar and ordered Negronis. Artist Allie Webb's signature charcoal works dress the walls, candles are dotted on each table, and jazz played in the background. Everyone around us had that warm, boozy look on their face. It looked like a dinner party with your favourite people.
The second time, we pulled a stool out at the bottom bar and ordered a bottle of Les Fruits Peu de Peau orange vino, plus a fish sandwich. Crumbed, golden and still juicy, the fish was sandwiched between pillowy white bread, zingy tartare and topped with a guindilla pepper. The only bad thing is that we had to share. Not wanting the night to end, we finished with a ‘Piccolo Classico’ – a tiny and cute Martini – and thought, we really love this place.
Next, we strolled in with family and sat in the alfresco courtyard, complete with marble tables and bay leaf plants hugged by terracotta pots, and daydreamed that we were somewhere in Europe.
It's a Sunday lunch when we finally visit Le Foote’s formal dining room. Walking in, we’re welcomed by smart looking waitstaff in crisp, white shirts and bow ties, plus the hunger-inducing waft of charcoal from the kitchen’s impressive Josper grill, overseen by head chef Stefano Marano. Tables are cloaked in white tablecloths and dappled sunlight. The pièce de résistance, however, is a striking mural on the walls, created from custom-made tiles from an Italian town called Civita Castellana. It’s an exceptional space.
We begin with taramasalata and crudites, taking turns dipping the crunchy radish and fennel, and just-blanched asparagus and beans into the creamy, salty fish roe blend. It’s gone like the wind.
Octopus comes grilled and chopped up on a plate, tangled with small cubes of potato, scatterings of macadamia, and dressed with a vibrant Aleppo pepper sauce and crisp sage leaves. The flesh, which is perfectly tender, sits on a bed of skordalia. And while there is enough garlic in there to keep the vampires away (and, perhaps your date), we scoop up every last bit of the memorable dish.
A fat, glistening and charred duck sausage is sliced and simply served with watercress and a dollop of Dijon mustard, the latter cutting through the fatty, sweet meat. The restraint works, and it’s a hit.
A swordfish rib eye comes out rightfully demanding attention, the bone slightly charred, the steak coated in a luscious and vinegary tomato picante that has a slight kick of chilli. The flesh is tender and juicy, and it's the best swordfish we’ve had.
Sides, which come out after our main, surpass the brief – in particular a hunk of grilled cabbage topped with a medley of pepitas, shallots, chilli, dill and garlic. And a picture-perfect potato en croute has golden and flaky pastry, the potatoes inside rich with umami thanks to miso and mushroom.
We finish with an orange panna cotta, which is draped in an orange juice toffee and toasted fennel seeds. It’s incredibly smooth, with delicate, balanced citrus notes, and enough jiggle that Mr Theroux would be pleased.
Every so often you visit a restaurant where everything just flows; moments pass by seamlessly, and you forget about the time, or how much you’ve eaten and drank. You pause, take a breath, look around and think: what a joy it is to be alive.
Le Foote is one of those places.