Le Grand Café by Bécasse: Sydney CBD

Sitting at Le Grand Café by Bécasse in the shiny new incarnation of the Alliance Française de Sydney, I am reminded of how quickly time passes. The last time I was at the Clarence Street address, I was still in high school uniform participating in various concours and competitions that the Alliance ran for French language students.

Le Grand Café by Bécasse

Set within the Alliance, Le Grand Café is the latest food venture from renowned chef Justin North. With his flagship restaurant Bécasse and take away shop Plan B across the road, you feel as if this part of Clarence Street now belongs to him.

The café is set among brightly-lit neon lights with a mural depicting Parisian and Sydney icons. The Pyramide du Louvre flirts with the Sydney Harbour Bridge under the watch of The Eiffel Tower and the Sydney Opera House; a marriage of architecture between two cities at opposite ends of the world.

Le Grand Café by Bécasse

Behind the travertine counter, blue-aproned staff with gorgeous French accents are beaming with smiles. They take my order, give me a number and I choose a table and settle with my bottle of Perrier. Around me, two other people are engrossed in their books. The plastic moulded seats and tables suit the casual nature of the café but they’re not designed to make you linger over your coffee or gateau. Besides, I only have time for a quick snack.

Le Grand Café by Bécasse

The café serves a bakery selection such as croissants, pain au chocolat, brioche as well tarts, baguettes, sandwiches and desserts. Alcoholic beverages such as French wines, beers, cider and digestifs are also available by the glass, carafe or bottle.

Le Grand Café by Bécasse

Although there’s barely anyone waiting to be served in the café, my croque-monsieur takes a good fifteen minutes to arrive.

Le Grand Café by Bécasse

Served on a wooden board which seems to be de rigueur at the moment, the croque-monsieur comes with a little salad but it is not an open grilled sandwich as I expected. The melted cheese is strong on flavour, just the way I like it, but I find the bread a little too thick for my taste.
I have my eye on a St-Honoré gateau but time is ticking away. I file it under mental notes and add the petit pot au chocolat to the list.

I look around me once more. I can still sense the connection with France and the sentiments evoked by the language omnipresent among members of the francophonie. But part of me yearns for the familiar and rather humble premises of earlier years. And just as I reminisce, I see a familiar face from the Alliance, a distinguished man whose appearance seems to have defied time. Then Justin North walks in looking more handsome in real life than he does on television.

Just as in the mural behind the counter, old and new come together at Le Grand Café.

Le Grand Café by Bécasse

Alliance Française de Sydney
257 Clarence Street
Sydney CBD


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About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is the Founder/Editor of popular online magazine Gourmantic and Cocktails & Bars, a website dedicated to cocktail culture and the discerning drinker. She is named in Australian Bartender Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential List since 2013, is a member of The Academy responsible for judging the World’s 50 Best Bars. She has also judged the inaugural Australasian Whisky Awards and various national cocktail competitions.