When the Swillhouse Group initially announced its takeover of the historic building dating back to 1838, everyone anticipated something grand. After all, Hubert, which still enjoys immense admiration as one of Australia’s finest French restaurants, had proven its enduring appeal.
However, due to construction delays inherent in working with heritage sites, Le Foote’s opening was postponed until May 2023. Yet, once its doors finally opened, the restaurant wasted no time in becoming Sydney’s hottest dining spot.
Two months after its debut, Le Foote remains consistently packed with both locals and visitors to The Rocks, regardless of the time of day. Whether it’s for a leisurely lunch or a romantic, intimate dinner in the elegant dining room, patrons flock to experience its offerings.
Surprisingly, even with a capacity to accommodate 425 guests, securing a reservation at Le Foote is a formidable challenge, making it one of the most sought-after dining experiences in the city. So, what’s all the buzz about?
The Dining Room
Le Foote isn’t your average white-tablecloth French restaurant. Rather, it’s a rabbit hole of small, multifunctional rooms, including a wine bar and a formal dining room. Actually, it’s not classified as a French restaurant either, more of a mixing bowl of European flavours from Greece to Italy.
Make your way past a charming wine bar and a delightful small courtyard adorned with terracotta vases to the slightly more spacious semi-alfresco formal dining room, able to accommodate up to 50 guests. Additionally, a clever trick to secure a spot when the tables are full is to take advantage of the ten spots available at the bar.
The ambience within the restaurant is enhanced by a breathtaking mural, meticulously crafted near Rome and reassembled like an intricate puzzle upon its arrival in Sydney. The attentive waitstaff, donning bow ties, upholds European service standards, while classical Italian guitars provide a melodious serenade, transporting you to the cobblestone streets of Florence.
The Wine Bar
Step into the small bar with black leather banquets for seating and charcoal artworks by Allie Webb line the walls, providing a cosy, stylish setting to enjoy a cocktail or tipple from an impressive range of over 200 bottles. Think of an ancient pub with bridal lace for curtains. You can order bar snacks to go with your bottle or glass of wine or head downstairs to the restaurant for something more filling.
There are also a handful of al fresco tables with Harbour Bridge views that get snapped up pretty quick. It’s a great spot to people-watch or spend a lazy Sunday sipping wine, scooping up taramasalata with crudites.
At Le Foote, the menu takes inspiration from the Mediterranean, with small plates and substantial meat and seafood options, all cooked over charcoal in the building’s original cookhouse.
Stefano Marano, the former head chef of the legendary Greek restaurant, The Apollo, leads the kitchen and, more specifically, the Josper oven. Here, Marano slaps whole fish over coal, with grilled sides and homemade salsa verde and pickled onions to accompany.
For starters, expect light, fresh dishes, including beef tartare with capers and egg yolk, calamari, and pancetta skewers, and a sweet option of cheese pie, lemon, and native berries.
Then move into the heftier mains, such as pork cotoletta or a swordfish rib eye topped with tomato piccante (sauce). Although if you’re struggling to decide, there are two banquet options: petit banquet ($100pp) and grand banquet ($135pp). The petit banquet offers a smaller offering, with three starters, two mains, a side dish, and a dessert, whereas the grand banquet has multiple dishes in each course, including two desserts.