I make no secret of my love of French food. When planning for this Melbourne trip there were only two must-dine places on my list: one being Bistro Vue and the other being Bistro Guillaume. Just as I was thrilled to dine at Bistro Vue, the more casual cousin of three-hatted Vue de Monde, I was excited about dining at Guillaume Brahimi’s two-hatted Melbourne bistro, sister to Guillaume at Bennelong situated within Sydney Opera House with views overlooking the harbour.
I have made a table reservation through Bistro Guillaume’s online form but discover I have half slipped through the system. When I phone to check my reservation, my name is indeed on their list however no one has called to confirm as promised on the website. This is of minor significance though, as the important point is that we do have a tabled booked to try the food!
Bistro Guillaume is located along the riverside of Southbank and is part of the Crown Entertainment Complex. We are seated at a round, granite-topped table in the corner of two window-lined walls after having our coats stored away for us. The tables by the windows are interestingly devoid of tablecloths and are segregated from the other tables by a high bench with bar stools. The centre tables are covered with tablecloths and this arrangement gives rise to a sort of outdoors-inside look.
I order a glass of sauvignon blanc while Monsieur Poisson designates himself the non-drinker despite the lack of a need to drive. Complimentary chewy sourdough that is full of holes is brought to the table with a round of butter anointed with salt flakes. Before long an amuse bouche of gruyère choux puffs is placed in front of us, which are essentially cheesy profiteroles filled with cheese sauce – yum! The pastry is light and the filling delicately smooth.
Then it’s more cheese for me with an entrée of ‘Twice-baked cheese soufflé with salad of pears, walnut and baby rocket’. The soufflé is shorter and firmer than that at L’étoile and the sauce is richer as well. I love the little paella-style pan that the soufflé comes in especially when I discover a crusty layer of cheese sauce at the bottom, like at the end of a cheese fondue. My arteries, I think, constrict in anticipated terror.
Monsieur Poisson has the ‘Terrine du jour’ which is quite sizeable and is shaped like a slice of sandwich bread. There’s ample grilled bread to accompany the terrine because there so often isn’t when it comes to terrines, pâté and dips. The salad of shoots and neatly arranged tower of cornichons help to cut through any meaty fattiness.
For mains I order a classic ‘Steak frites avec sauce Béarnaise’ which is a very generous serve by fine dining standards. The steak is lightly charred on the outside and moist on the inside. There is a peppery watercress salad on the side and, oh, a mound of French fries covering half the plate! There are too many fries to finish, even when there is a wonderfully creamy, herby Béarnaise for dipping.
Monsieur Poisson opts for a lighter dish of ‘Pan-seared snapper fillet with salsa verde, pimentos and butter beans’. A golden seared fillet of snapper sits atop crunchy, young butter beans with a salty caper salsa punctuated by sweet pimento bits. The flavours are not French but are light, refreshing and work well together.
I have to pass on dessert but Monsieur Poisson ploughs on by ordering a ‘Crumble du Jour’ which happens to be apple and pear. Crumbles are a particular favourite of his and he is happily rewarded with his choice when he is met with what he has since described as the best crumble he has ever had. The top is both crunchy and crumbly without being powdery and the filling still has a little bite. On the side is a scoop of vanilla bean ice-cream sitting in its own little dish so that it doesn’t melt and run everywhere.
I sit back with a pot of Marco Polo Rouge tea and share some Valrhona chocolate truffles with Monsieur Poisson while he sips on a caffe latté. I consciously remind myself not to inhale when taking the first bite into a cocoa-dusted truffle but somehow manage to do so anyway. The centre is dense, smooth and fudgy and I very inelegantly suck it between my teeth. We are happy, satisfied and very full of food, and are in need of a detour for a short walk before returning to the hotel!
Shop 7, Crown Entertainment Complex, Southbank VIC
Tel: (03) 9693 3888
Opening Hours: 7 days 12pm-3pm (lunch)
6pm til late (dinner)
LATEST UPDATE: Bistro Guillaume was recently demoted to being a one-hat restaurant in The Age Good Food Guide 2010.