The heritage sandstone building on the edge of Hyde Park, above St James’ station entrance is one of those iconic locations that begs for a cool Sydney cafe or restaurant. Its neighbours are as chic as they come, like the French luxury house ‘Hermes’ and on the other corner ‘David Jones Department Store’ with the beautiful Hyde Park on your other sides and some of the city’s busiest foot traffic at your door – what more could any food business ask for.
I have always looked at this location with a romantic notion that a great chef/business person could turn this into a smart and sharp restaurant that you might see in Manhattan’s Central Park or the edges of the parks in Paris. But that is not to be – yet. Over the years, this perfect location has had trouble getting the right type of restaurant. After quite a while with no tenants in it and looking very sad, with all sorts of squatters taking possession in this prime Sydney CBD position, it now has a new owner – Metro St James Bistro and Cafe. Metro St James is managed by Philippe Valet, who also has La Brasserie in Crown St, East Sydney.
The space at Metro St James has been updated with a new bar area in the centre with a emphasis on using the outdoors, as it should be here. Nothing here is interesting, they’ve gone for a very pedestrian fitout.
On arrival, we were greeted with as much enthusiasm as someone who could not give a toss about their job and you, the customer was a bother. The service did not change much from that point – no such thing as professionalism from the front of house staff – on this sunny afternoon for lunch at Metro St James Bistro, shame.
The food: the menu at Metro St James is small – five or so entrees, mains and a couple of desserts – and fairly normal fare for a bistro. Our choices – kingfish crudo, endive, finger lime, beets and olive – the fish tasted fresh and had a translucent colour, a clean taste with minute explosions of lime beads – a nice dish overall.
The pan seared scallops from South Australia, melon and tomato vierge, proscuitto and shiso (and capers not mentioned but they were included) – the scallops were moist and carmelized on the outside. Possibly too much melon and tomato to maintain the right balance.
Duck ragu, tuscan kale, shitake with fusilli pasta – this dish worked and the flavours all melded together good, the duck was tender and rich and the kale delivered a sharp flavour and added texture and colour. The pasta was very well cooked with a good bite and flavour, when I asked what pasta was used they would not tell me, funny we thought!
The wine list – again quite tight and mostly French and Italian wines with a couple of NZ/Australian wines.
The verdict – Metro St James Bistro – the food was well prepared and acceptable for what it is – the front of house staff was unprofessional and careless, the service and cohesiveness of the place needs to vastly improve if they want to be taken seriously by more than the passing tourist. This is not the cool Sydney restaurant we had been hoping for.
Wine list: 5/10
Metro St James
110 Elizabeth St, Sydney 2000 (behind St James Station on the park)