Posts Categorized: French

Guillaume gets it right

The original Bistro Guillaume was an extravagant affair, a lusciously fitted out space with a scary wine list and prices that reflected it. The chef behind the restaurant, Guillaume Brahimi, admits he made a mistake. Now closed and reopened in the space that once housed Philippe Mouchel, he’s got it right with his head chef Graeme McLaughlin who was a sous chef at Guillaume at Bennelong and was at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck for four years. What remains of the old Bistro Guillaume is the puff ball dress-style lamp shades, the $140,000 comfortable bentwood chairs, and some of what was on the menu. For instance, steak frites with a béarnaise, which in 2008 cost $35 and now $36. What’s gone is the $250,000 wine list and the pomp and circumstance. In fact, Guillaume has discovered Victorians wines such as Mayer, Crawford River and William Downie. The half a roasted chicken with Paris mash and chicken jus at $35 is worth looking out for as is all the other bistro fare – the charcuterie plate, steak tartare, onion soup and so on. I’m guessing that the daily $34 specials – I fancy Beef bourguignon on Tuesday and Bouillabaisse on Friday – are also worth a try, for boozy lunch on the terrace on a sunny day. And lets not forget the gorgeous lemon tart or the cheese platter to finish.

Heirloom – one foam too far

Heirloom looks great but the food needs to be simpler. The best French chefs are Japanese nowadays, they say. But they aren’t French they are Japanese. They are just cooking French-style with the addition of Japanese ingredients. Meanwhile, the best French chefs are now open in Japan. They rock. Or at least Michel Bras does, the man who is one of the inspirations for local, sustainable super-natural cuisine several decades before Noma had even been dreamt of. And now this whole Japanese French thing is in Melbourne with the 2010 opening of Duck Duck Goose in the QV shopping centre and the recent opening of Heirloom towards the top end of Bourke St, under the Citadines Apartments. Melbourne has a huge appetite for all things French and Japanese. We love escargot, steak tartare, moules et frites, steak with béarnaise all washed down with a burgundy. Chicken terrine: good Or we love the pared down simplicity of sushi, sashimi and tempura, nowadays washed down with a sake rather than white wine. But bring Japanese together with French and you’ve got confusion. I can’t even find a funny fusion between the two words; Japanch or Frapenese don’t really cut it. I’m not sure I want to go to a very fancy restaurant for the fusion and by the accounts I get from diners who’ve eaten at DDG (who mainly say the food is reasonably good) it probably isn’t as full as the owners would like. Eel fritters – great. As one high profile restaurant critic said to me: “…the whole French/Japanese idea repulses me.” The theoretical appeal of Heirloom is Shigeo Nonaka, a chef who worked at Shoya in Market Lane. In the main restaurant the chefs aren’t French-Japanese with Kyle Doody billed by a waitress as a “molecular chef”. That spells F-O-A-M! John Dory with, yes, foam. Not so good. The trouble with Heirloom when you visit the staff don’t bother to tell you about the sushi bar, which is hidden to the back right of the restaurant. They sit you down to eat French-Japanese (or is it Japanese-French?) and encourage you to drink sake. And I’m afraid the combination of all three isn’t good. Beetroot. Ouch! There is nothing wrong with the sake alone, and there is a splendid list of them together with a knowledgable sake sommelier. There is nothing wrong with the base ingredients used; they are beautiful… Read more »