Bar Chinois has brought an interesting fusion of Asian and French flavours as the very first small bar-cafe to hit the ever-evolving Kensington Street precinct in Chippendale. Shaped into a double terrace near the entrance of hawker-style food court Spice Alley, the new venue stands bathed in a sultry glow which reflects off the homely front in a spectacular fashion, making way for an impressive entry as the gorgeous fit-out is apparent the moment you step through that casual entrance. As far as looks go, Bar Chinois is a winner; the small space is utilised incredibly well with cosy booths and hidden private areas upstairs.
The spot to be is on the front balcony, and though it’s a very cramped affair, looking out over the bustling precinct with a cocktail – or cocktail teapot – in hand is worth it. Those gasping for space can always head back inside to the intimate dining room before the steep stairway, or head back downstairs and pull up at the bar with several counter seats propping you next to the energetic bartenders.
The food menu is modest – it’s still early days for Bar Chinois – and there’s not much to the casual-style cafe dishes. The Croque Monsiour ($14) or Croque Madame ($16) (the only major difference is a fried egg on the Madame) inexplicably comes with soft, plain cauliflower and the expected ham and cheese. The only saving grace here is the gooey, full-flavoured gruyere and bechamel sauce, with the addition of cauliflower not all working as well as they would have hoped.
More worthy is the Honey-Glazed Popcorn Chicken ($14) which is served in a bowl with chilli aioli, enjoyable if not a bit soggy. It balanced out any one of there excessively sweet signature cocktails with a soft, meaty hit, similar to the tender Crispy Slow-Cooked Pork Belly Bites ($17) which come with pickled daikon, apple puree, and chilli soy sauce.
The smooth Tokyo Crepe ($16) is also a well-advised order, presented in pieces with enoki and shitake mushrooms scattered on top, smothered in cream cheese and chives. It’s a highlight of the more unique menu items available.
The kitchen also hits the right beat with the Duck Rilette Spring Rolls ($16) with plum sauce and chestnut puree; they look like an utter mess on the plate, but the generous size and freshness used in combination with the soft, stringy pieces of duck is a winning taste.
As I mentioned above, its stil very early days for Bar Chinois, but its unfortunate that the food and drink doesn’t quite keep up with the inspired look and atmosphere this cafe-by-day, bar-by-night has got going for it. If they balance the signatures a bit better, flesh out the menu some more and, for the love of everything that is French, offer a decent Croque Monsiour/Madame, then it wouldn’t be hard making this a regular haunt. For now: walk, don’t run.
Address: 16 Kensington Street, Chippendale
Contact: 02 9281 0855
Hours: Mon – Fri 12pm – late; Sat 9am – late; Sun 9am – 10pm