I’ll be the first to admit it: even after scouring the website, I don’t quite get what Lonsdale Street’s latest offering, Chez Frederic, is all about. It’s not until we arrive that I really appreciate exactly what this concept – what I think is the first of its kind in Canberra – intends, and achieves.
On a second look, it’s right there in front of me. Chez Frederic describes itself as “licensed gourmet take away … dine in … catering” right there on its homepage, but I miss it. We book a table for four, and they politely inform us that they don’t usually do tables for under eight, but they’ll make an exception for us on their second night.
After drinks at its down-the-road neighbour, Debacle, we arrive outside the floor to ceiling glass windows and pause before we venture in. Another couple is looking at the menu outside and one says, “This is just takeaway” before walking away.
We’ve got a table booking (!), so I already know they’re mistaken. Inside, we’re greeted warmly as we peruse the menus on the wall in what’s essentially an industrial space.
We order from the wall, and include a bottle of wine in our purchase (beer, and glasses of wine, are also available), and are directed to take a seat at one of the longer tables.
Essentially, this is gourmet take away that you can choose not to take away (ie eat at one of the seats), order your take away but leave (and have a beer while you wait), or pre-order and pick up and not spend any time there at all. (They do catering, too.) While takeaway is the biggest part of the concept, why wouldn’t you want to sit in the well-designed space, where you can people watch Lonsdale St away from the January heat, and appreciate the cute touches?
It’s a shorter wait than I expect for the food; with the concept of having a drink while we wait, I expect that I’ll be through a glass of wine before our food arrives, but it’s not long at all. It’s a few more minutes for our companions’ dishes to be served.
Our meals are big! The vessel they’re served in surprises me, but it’s takeaway after all. And, it keeps the food warm while we wait for our friends to be served (which is soon after).
These are big dishes which we demolish. Mine (the duck ravioli) is really tasty (go the pink sauce!) – the flavours and the textures marry beautifully.
The friend who has the gnocchi finds it very hot (ie just brought out) and difficult to eat at first – unpleasant – but warms to it (see what I did there) and concludes that he enjoyed it. I try a piece but find it a little bland. I’m assured the veal scallopini is great, and Boyfriend’s lasagne disappears while I’m in the midst of scraping the sauce out of my vessel.
We’re offered creme caramels (normally $4) and of course we try one each. This doesn’t wow me as much as the main meal, and at $4 it’s not the value that I think I’d get for $6 spent on a big container of tiramisu.
Rubbish bins which remind me of Oscar the Grouch’s abode line one of the walls, and we (mostly) clean up after ourselves.
The concept is unique, and not something I fully appreciated until I arrive – but now I’ve experienced it, I’m convinced it’s a great idea. The prices seem reasonable – the preparation of food and choice of ingredients has been given proper consideration, and the servings are biiig (brace yourselves).
Their website has promised some even ‘finer dining’ later this year – I look forward to what they’ve got in store.
Date: Tuesday, 14 January 2014
Where: Lonsdale Street, Braddon (near the roped off Beaurepaires site)
Cost: A little over $50 for two – lasagne + duck + bottle of shiraz. We and all other diners receive complimentary creme caramels (normally $4).
Food creativity: 3 out of 10 – it’s traditional with flair
Waitstaff pretentiousness: None; this has hipster touches but the waitstaff are eminently sensible and polite
Worthwhile factor: Worthwhile
Want more? Check out their website.