If you are looking for a great little place for lunch or dinner half way between Pigalle and Montmartre, look no further than this gem of a place. You can thank me later...
The most Alsatian of the Parisian Brasseries, has been serving draught beer and sauerkraut near Bastille since 1864. In 1981, President François Mitterand booked the entire first floor to celebrate his election, and I had not had a full meal here for a good 15 years, hence why i went bak for dinner in November 2016. And I was not disappointed!
Following our review of Cumulus Inc, here is our second instalment of our tour of our favourite top five restaurants in Melbourne. It is also the most recently opened by talented and Bocuse trained Chef, Philippe Mouchel.
His cuisine is firmly routed in French tradition, but includes a few twists and surprises which makes it the newest destination for French flavour in Melbourne. Make sure you book, as it is already very popular.
At the top end of Flinders Lane, also called the Parisian end of the Melbourne CBD, and next to Italian eatery extraordinaire Cecconi's (which we will review later...) sits pretty, sleek, and busy, Cumulus Inc, part of Andrew McConnell's empire and running morning to late, seven days a week.
My current first choice when dining on my own in Melbourne, it combines fabulous décor, ambience, gorgeous crowds and delicious food.
I have been commuting to Melbourne for work for almost 20 years, and particularly in my early travels, Melbourne was definitely the food capital of Australia. The weather is more conducive to eating indoors, which calls for a more refined cuisine than just "throwing a shrimp on the barbie"...
The large Greek and Italian community also had a great influence on the European feel of the city and its food - and café - scene. The gold rush has also brought a great Chinese community now very established and one can find some of the best Chinese and now pan Asian cuisine in the world here.
So voilà my current list, some of these joints have been on this list since day one, like Punch Lane Wine Bar, some have made the list more recently like Philippe which I had the pleasure on discovering during their first week.
Most of them are in the Paris end of Melbourne on the edge of Chinatown, as I normally stay in Exhibition Street, a central location for my business dealings. So here it is!
PUNCH LANE WINE BAR - Classic European
A pioneer of laneway dining in Melbourne, Punch Lane has been a favourite amongst theatre-goers, wine-lovers and long-lunchers since 1995 and discovered them as early as late 1997!
A cosy restaurant and wine bar, Punch Lane is one of the original Melbourne Laneway gems, situated in the heart of Melbourne’s entertainment district on the fringes of Bourke street’s Paris end and the hustle of Melbourne’s Chinatown.
ttComfortable, with great service - an important factor when you dine alone - and consistent food even though the Chefs have been changing over the years, it is still my choice by default if I can't find a spot elsewhere.
LONGRAIN Modern Thai
Well, my previous boos made me discover their original Sydney establishment, so I had to try the Melbourne one as well! I went only once for lunch, as it is more of a large group venue for dinner. It is always good and consistent and quite authentic modern Thai food, designed by now organic gardener extraordinaire Martin Boetz.
GINGERBOY Pan Asian
The dining experience at Gingerboy is centred on a modern Australian adaptation of the Asian hawker-style street market food. The restaurant’s hustle and bustle, its fast-paced, youthful and dynamic environment is influenced not only by the dining culture of Southeast Asia but also by buzzing Asian marketplaces and an Asian sense of colour and fun.
In my opinion, a much better place than Longrain and more single diner friendly, as you can eat downstairs at the bar overlooking the kitchen - great entertainment guaranteed!
ROSA'S KITCHEN - Sicilian
I have been several times, but my last visit in March was a disappointment...
The beauty of this place was in the tables close to each other, the noise, the ballet of the waitresses and the occasional appearance of Rosa herself with I had a chat once, a real Italian Mama who knows how to feed a crowd.
Over my last visit, there were only a few sparse tables, the service was done by a nice couple and they had one person cooking. The result was that the buzz was gone but not the stress in the kitchen and the order we placed came to wrong for one of the dishes... Don't get me wrong the food was still delicious and the man serving knows his Italian wine and went along with my choice of Primitivo, the Italian Zinfandel, one of my recent wine discoveries.
BAR LOURINHA - Portuguese tapas and wines
I have not been recently, although I tried, but it is always packed... and this is a very good little place where the boys behind the counter know their Portuguese and Spanish wines and the kitchen produces some of the best tapas in Melbourne, besides Movida, bien sûr. The wine list though seems to have recanted to more Australian and a few Spanish wines...
ENTRECOTE South Yarra and City - French
I have tried both and I love them both... Most famous dish is obviously the steak frites with the special sauce made out of 18 ingredients, secret ingredients that is... I found 7, but I won't tell or I would have to kill you...
The South Yarra venue looks very French inside, very classy and most of the waiters and waitresses are French, so you really feel at home. The steak is not the most tender on the Planet, but is very tasty and cooked to perfection
This concludes the first episode of my Melbourne food and wine journey.
Over the next few weeks I will add my top five restaurants and a proper review for each. Stay tuned!
'I recently went back to Paris for a few days before TGVing to Les Sables d'Olonne in Vendée to see my Mum, sister and older son who recently settled down nearby and got married to his long term German and lovely girlfriend. I stayed where my children stayed during their Uni exchange programs in 2013 in between Gare de l'Est and the trendy Canal Saint Martin. So by public request, I thought I would elaborate a bit more than the few Instagram photos you may have seen already. And just after the long journey from Sydney, what would you but sit at the nearby brasserie and enjoy your first café along (long black in Oz...). If you don't specify then you will end up with an expresso, and if late is your caffeine injection of choice, too bad, you will have to settle for a grand crème.
Although it is near impossible to get accomodation there without a solid connection, you can still enjoy the café downstairs, called Café A, a nice gathering place of "branchés" youngish French people attracted by the lovely courtyard and the good food at reasonable prices and limited, but good wine list including the traditional carafe, and on the first night, I didn't have the energy nor the appetite to look any further and settled down to a great steak tartare with a carafe of bio wine from Chateau de Saurs, from Gaillac AOC.
During the day on my way back from lunch with a long time friend who I had not seen for 30 years, I strolled along the Canal enjoying the warm weather and the gentle crowd feeding on the atmosphere. And was lucking to see a boat going through the lock.
The now famous - for all the wrong reasons - Place de la République is only a 15 mns walk from Gare de lest, whether you go straight via the Boulevard Magenta - but what would be the point of that when you can go along the canal and then via some more picturesque little streets?
They might well make the best croissants in Paris, but their Parisian arrogance is certainly second to none as well... For starters they are NOT open during weekends - yes, you have read properly... And then when asked if they make coffee they refer you to the Monop' across the road whose coffee machine happens to be "en panne' but point you to a bar tabac at the corner of the street on the canal, where they will happily serve you coffee and eat your viennoiseries in peace - no corkage here thank you very much!
There are also a number of trendy restaurants around, one owned by Aussies, called Holybelly - opening at 10.00am! a bit late when you only have 5 days in Paris, and one that I took my nephew and his partner to, called Aux Enfants Perdue rue des Récollets which turned out to be much better than my expectations, some here is a mini review of this unassuming place.
They also run a very nice delicatessen and bottle shop just across the road, worth checking if you want to cook at home.
I hope you have enjoyed my little glimpse of the Canal Saint Martin area of Paris and that it will entice you to go and wander the area at your own pace!
Another place where I have lunched and dined for decades...
However, I have not been back since moving to Australia almost 20 years ago. So, over my recent trip to Paris, I was keen to reacquaint myself with the decor, the personnel and the food bien sûr. And I was not disappointed!
Au Petit Riche has been in continuous operation since 1854! And I have lunched and dined in this beautiful establishment for decades...
However, I have not been back since moving to Australia almost 20 years ago. So, over my recent trip to Paris, I was keen to reacquaint myself with the decor, the personnel and the food bien sur. And I was not disappointed!
For 18 years, it has been a monthly gathering of fabulous producers, dedicated food enthusiasts and celebrity Chefs showing their skills in well orchestrated demos. It has been a great help in my food blogger journey as it has given me casual access to the crème de la crème of famous Chefs from around Australia and sometime from further afield. Some of them have become good friends in the process. Also true of dozen of suppliers whose products I have bought, revised and promote (for free...) because they were outstanding and made with love and dedication.
Jill Duplex and Terry Durak, just landed from Melbourne at the time, started this venture in 1998, as they could not find in Sydney the equivalent of the Melbourne markets (and still can't, as there are no city based permanent daily markets in Sydney...) For many years, Joanna Savill relentlessly organised it, cajoling Chefs into spending their Saturday mornings entertaining and educating a smallish group of dedicated followers. I personally started reporting on these events in 2010. More recently, Joanna was replaced by the flamboyant Myffy Rigby, with the occasional help of the elegant Ardyn Bernoth. I was not going to miss out the last edition yesterday. Here is a series of photos and videos taken before and during the panel which was assembled to discuss the future of the food markets in Sydney. It was an interesting discussion curated by Myffy and Ardyn who gently grilled (!) the panelists: Josephine Perry (missy French) and dad Neil Perry (Rockpool), Jill Duplex (SMH), Ronni Kahn of OzHarvest fame and Somer Sivrioglu of Efendy Balmain and now at Barangaroo.
There were some interesting points raised and some proposals made as well as a quick appearance from Pepe Saya aka Pierre Issa.
The best story , I think, was when Somer recounted a conversation with his Dad about visiting the Growers Market, and his Dad asking "are they any other types of markets?. Precious!
I grew up in a culture and at a time where daily markets were the rule, and Mum was shopping almost daily for fresh food. We would then go to the butcher or the fishmonger, and the boulanger, bien sûr...
There is a petition running to open a permanent market somewhere in the City - Haymarket, Surry Hills and Barangaroo were mentioned. There were some "out of place " comments, I thought about the lockout laws and the cost of labour, but overall, it was all very civilised.
You will hear in one of the videos a talk about "imperfect vegetables and fruits" but nobody mentioned the good work done in that sphere by Harris Farm Markets. Nobody either acknowledged the great work done by Joanna Savill over the years, and she was visiting the market. I thought it would have been polite to invite her even briefly...
The quality of these videos is not perfect, but consider them as a record of an interesting way of sending off this 18 year old institution.
Neil Perry of Rockpool fame talks about imperfect vegetables.
Ronni Khan, the founder of OzHarvest talks about imperfect vegetables and fruits as well as food waste.
Somer Sivrioglu does a demo of how to open a pomegranate with his bare hands and remove the pearls without losing all the precious juice...
Joke of the day: What is stronger than a Turk? Two Turks... Sorry Somer!
Pepe Saya was invited to talk about all things butter and how this market (and Qantas...) helped him growing his business against European Community subsidised Lurpak. Neil Perry also managed to plug a ranting about lock out laws in Sydney, whether or not it was the right audience is debatable, but I like a man with a cause, and in this case two men!
We will miss this view forever...Good bye the SMH Growers Market
Well, I have never picked grapes in my life, so when Katrina Hill, a good client and a friend of many years asked me if I could come and help as her grapes needed picking a week earlier than planned, I tough it would make a great day out in the country side. A good two-hour drive south of Sydney in Canyonleigh, at 700m of altitude, Far Ago Hill is a boutique vineyard making an excellent Pinot Gris and soon to be released, what should be a great Shiraz. The vines have been progressively planted since 2004, so int is quite established and the Pinot Gris has an excellent reputation amongst the high end of Chefs in the Southern Highlands (Biota Dining) and beyond, as it is now poured at the new Peter Gilmore restaurant Bennelong. It is also served on Qantas First Class. Not a small achievement for what started as a hobby!
Once you leave the small road which leads you to the entrance of the property, you need to drive up hill on a very rough dirt road for two kilometres until...
After a welcome (and welcomed...) cup of coffee, I was offered to taste the juice of the first grapes picked to assess the ripeness. I am not an expert, but they were very tasteful and sweet, and after the approval by better informed people than myself, the grape picking had commenced a good two hours earlier by a hastily assembled crew, as the grapes were ripe earlier than forecasted and the vineyard was pounded by heavy hail the night before, hopefully to little damage thanks in part to the netting...
Après le réconfort, l'effort! Down to the vineyard and start picking grapes after a quick training with the secateur. Fortunately, even though the clouds eventually melted away, it was a cool 20deg in the morning
It took two days to a crew of ten people to harvest the 16 rows of Pinot Gris producing 8 tons of beautiful fruit. The grapes were then transported in two trips to the winer, a two hour drive from Canyonleigh...
After six hours of picking grapes under an increasingly sunny sky takes its toll, but the sense of accomplishment, the camaraderie with people i didn't know earlier in the day and a shared lunch of sausages, boiled potatoes salad and some Pinot Gris 2015 are the biggest rewards of the vendanges!
Not to mention the fact that when we finally drink the 2016 vintage, I will have that particular connection between the land, its bounty and the labor of love which went into producing the finest bottle of wine! Merci Katrina
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.
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