Bistecca is an unashamedly Italian venue by hospitality duo James Bradey and Warren Burns (Grandma’s, The Wild Rover, Wilhemina’s), dedicated exclusively to Tuscany’s revered cut of steak, bistecca alla Fiorentina.
Spanning three distinct spaces in a heritage-fronted building on Bridge Street, and accessed via Dalley Street at the rear, Bistecca delivers the ambience and bravado of Italy’s famed ristoranti and enoteche via a super smart bar, 50-seat restaurant, and adjoining wine store with service to match.
After the painstaking task of touring Italy for the best steak and wine, Bradey and Burns decided on the cut of steak, bistecca alla Fiorentina, made famous in Florence centuries ago and celebrated worldwide. Cut and weighed, then presented to diners, the steak is cooked fireside over charcoal, wood and olive leaves (for smokiness) to a perfect medium-rare. The steak is left to rest and served in traditional Italian fashion, well-seasoned with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
Fanning the flames of the restaurant’s central open hearth is chef, Pip Pratt, whose resume includes Michelin-starred Club Gascon (UK), Richard Corrigan’s Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Grill (UK), and Sydney’s Bentley Restaurant + Bar.
Pratt has worked up a host of contorni to accompany, perhaps white beans cooked slowly in olive olive, crispy potatoes with garlic and rosemary, and Brussels sprouts with pecorino and sour cream, as well as a one rotating vegetarian main course, maybe ricotta dumplings with artichokes.
Traditionally the short loin from either the Italian Chianina and Maremmana cow, Bistecca’s steak will be locally-sourced from the Riverina region of NSW.
“We tried at least 40 different steaks from different regions and farmers across Australia to settle on the right one,” says Burns. “We chose the Riverine to deliver my holy trinity of meat: flavour, texture and supply. We’ll need a few beasts each week I reckon and have a fabulous meat locker for display.”
At the bar there’s a short menu of snacks cicchetti, small share-style dishes such as ricotta with lardo, baccalà mantecato sardines with sultanas and pine nuts, and panini packed with meatballs to accompany a drinks list focusing mainly on great Italian classics.
Vicenza-born wine director, Alice Massaria, formerly of Uccello and Saint Peter, has curated a formidable list featuring close to 300 Italian wines or Australian wines made from Italian varietals with many available by the glass, plus house wines by the carafe. The adjoining wine shop, opening for retail later this year, will encourage restaurant guests to leave their table to select a bottle off the shelf. An exclusive reserve section will include top shelf Barolos and Brunellos.
The bar area which seats 50 features a Carrara marble-top bar and a great selection of drinks on tap, including an exclusive Four Pillars Negroni, Aperol spritz plus birra and wine such as Unico Zelo from the Adelaide Hills. Classic cocktails include Garibaldi and Bellini as well an abundance of Amari.
Australian architectural firm, Tom Mark Henry (Dead Ringer bar, 1888 retail), have reimagined this heritage-fronted former hair salon, adding a distinct Italian interior. Entering the venue off a laneway in Sydney’s CBD, guests are greeted by a dimly lit bar with dark timber shelving heaving with all manner of amari and Italian liquor. A semi-concealed door provides a glimpse at the restaurant beyond, featuring a central open hearth, butcher’s block, domed ceilings with brick cladding, and traditional black and white chequered floors.
Adjoining the restaurant is the third and final space, the wine room, which draws inspiration from a classic Italian cellar and features original terrazzo floors. It features a single table for 10.
The design brief was guided by the memories of Burns and Bradey’s Italian tours. Bradey said: “Our travels through Italy really lit the fuse for the concept. We’ve taken what we love about dining in Italy and recreated it right in the heart of Sydney.”
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