The Charles Grand Brasserie & Bar, one of Sydney’s last hidden gems

Eat & Drink

Sitting on the corner of one of Sydney’s busiest junctions, it’s hard to imagine any establishment could fly under the radar – but that’s exactly what you get from the effortlessly elegant Charles Grand Brasserie & Bar.
The Charles Grand Brasserie.

A true gem from a seemingly bygone era, this European-style dining room and mezzanine offers a sophisticated experience in a classic art-deco building, situated right in the heart of the CBD.

Kicking things off with a half-dozen freshly shucked oysters and a reasonably priced glass of Veuve Cliquot Rose, you’d be forgiven for thinking the bar à vin is the hero of this dining experience. That is until you enter the Grand Brasserie which boasts a 600-strong wine list that encompasses both Aussie gems and some renowned international labels – some of which surpass $30,000 a bottle.

The bar.
The dining room.

Under the guidance of Executive Chef Billy Hannigan, who brings a wealth of experience from esteemed establishments like Loulou Bistro, The Ledbury in London, and Guillaume at Bennelong, the kitchen at The Charles delivers a refreshing combination of old-school decadence with modern flair – at prices that are surprisingly reasonable. Rhiann Mead, the talented head of pastry with a background from Bennelong, Quay, and Harrod’s Food Hall, adds the finishing touches.

The charm of the venue spills out from the kitchen and onto the dining room floor where your steak and anchovy tartare is prepared tableside with a fresh combination of shallots, capers, lemon, black pepper and anchovy mayonnaise.

However, the headliner of the show comes in the form of a whole-dry aged Aylesbury duck that is pressed, carved and served with a rich Valrhna Oabika (concentrated cocoa fruit juice). So what makes it so special? Each duck is dry-aged for 14 days in a custom-built room in the kitchen. Once ready, it’s quickly roasted at a very high heat to achieve caramelisation and crispy skin. Presented tableside, the duck is then put through the press to create the sticky sauce.

The duck.

After making our way down the impressive entrée list, we ambitiously attempted to knock off the duck between two people – be warned, it’s more sizeable than you’d expect.

And if you’re wondering why the duck press, synonymous with French cuisine, isn’t used more widely – well they don’t come cheap. In 2016, a silver-plated press from Tour d’Argent fetched $65,000 while Anthony Bourdain’s personal duck press sold for $52,000.

“The hallmark of a European brasserie is the house specialty,” explains Sebastien Lutaud, Director of Culinary. “At The Charles, ours is the ‘Canard à la Presse’, or whole dry-aged Maremma roasted and pressed duck. It takes around two weeks to make each dish, but it’s nothing short of splendid to eat.”

As for the dessert trolley – brace yourself. A three-tier cart of Russian honey, strawberry & white chocolate cheesecake, Marjolaine and Tiramisu tarte are wheeled straight to your table to cap things off with a selection of after-dinner cocktails, dessert wines and liqueurs.  

A quiet underachiever situated near some of Sydney’s most glamorous fine dining restaurants, The Charles Grand Brasserie & Bar exceeded all expectations on every front – and safely holds its own amongst the city’s best eateries.

This author was a guest of the restaurant.

The dessert trolley.

More from Forbes Life