Les Bistronomes, Braddon

21 Oct

I’d wondered what would be replacing Canberra institution Delissio when it shut its doors back in June, and was glad we didn’t have to wait (too) long for an answer. French is a cuisine that interests me but it’s one to which I’ve had little exposure; my naive impressions have been that it’s pretty dense and stuck in the 80s. But Les Bistronomes’ chefs come with a serious pedigree, having worked – at a minimum – in Canberra’s finest establishments, so I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do.

As I call to book, the phone is answered in French, followed by a short laugh when it’s clear I don’t speak a (useful) word – I feel like Carrie in the penultimate episode of the Sex and the City TV series. But we lock a table in, and on arrival at 6.30pm on Saturday night it’s clear that almost all the staff do actually speak rather fluent French.

We’re seated outside on this warm evening; Les Bistronomes has made good use of the space. We can people watch while being protected from the elements.

First impressions count a lot at a venue and the first impressions here impress me a great deal. The drinks orders are taken promptly and I’m happy to listen to our waiter list drinks and choose from that conversation. The delicious, warm bread is served with moreish smoked tomato butter – shaped exactly like one.

Smoked tomato butter with warm bread

I’ve heard good things about the menu and I’m already pretty convinced with my choices until I look more closely at the menu and hear the specials. While the menu is short, there’s a lot that tempts me. Even though some of it seems a bit ‘traditional’, the descriptions do a good job attracting me.

I’m wedded to the idea of beef tartare, but the hen egg with soldiers and asparagus as an entree equally lures me in (not least because eggs and toast is one of my few specialties the few things I can cook). I’m happy with my decision: the tartare is hearty while diced finely, smooth and full of flavour. The crackling is chewy amongst the slippery beef slivers and I simply like how it works in my mouth. And it’s big! For $17, this is very good value.

Beef tartare with light crackling (amazing)

Boyfriend orders the rather beautiful salad nicoise (tuna, potato, egg, beans, olive, capsicum) and enjoys it. I’m impressed with the yolkiness (new word?) of the (quail?) eggs.

Salad nicoise

I’ve gone out of my comfort zone of the ordering within a menu (my feeling is you know it’s tried and tested); convinced to order the salmon with broccoli and mussels in a shrimp bisque ($36 as the fish of the day).

This is the best piece of salmon I can remember. The most delicious bisque. I’d usually opt away from mussels but these make the meal. On top of that, like the nicoise salad it’s beautifully presented. I’m coming around to this whole French cooking thing.

Salmon in shrimp bisque with mussels and broccoli

What beauty, eh?

Boyfriend makes the unfortunate mistake of ordering a dish I’m equally keen on: the goat’s cheese souffle with beetroot and spring vegetable salad. This is again a substantial portion (which makes it all the more justifiable for me to help myself…).

Goat’s cheese souffle

Despite this, I get in a lot of trouble. The reason being? It’s superb. This is getting cruel.

It’s surely a combination of the balmy evening (a trick before Canberra throws cool wind at us), great Braddon atmosphere and a truly great menu that has us quickly ordering off the dessert menu. Yes, the chocolate mousse and avocado sounds great. So does the strawberry and elderflower charlotte. Apart from my love of (obsession with) elderflower cordial, we’ve no real idea what we’ve both ordered. Does it matter? Nope. Again: even without significant descriptions, we can be confident with the product.

The chocolate mousse and avocado ends up being cigar like, with both flavours present through the plate (I’m a convert). The strawberry and elderflower charlotte is sweet and acidic, with confident use of a variety of textures. I normally hate the ‘shard’ textures stuck in the tops of dishes, but the tastes and textures in this dish are more than forgivable.

Indeed, I feel like I need to revisit these dishes again to describe them better to you but simply: dessert’s ($14 each) a winner, too.

Avocado and chocolate mousse

Variety of textures – and again, pretty plating – with the strawberry and elderflower charlotte

These are the kinds of dishes that require revisiting – again and again. They are complex without being unnavigable; I like how appealing they are to what I consider my own pretty average palate, and how I want to explore the tastes and textures again, and again.

It’s hard not to wax lyrical, but I hope, regardless, you can tell that this is a special meal. It’s plated beautifully; the effort in the tastes and textures results in a deeply satisfying outcome; the atmosphere is right. I try not to revisit restaurants too quickly, but in this case? I simply must.

Date: Saturday, 11 October

Where: Corner Mort and Elouera Streets, opposite BentSpoke

Cost: $161 for two, including one light beer, a champagne cocktail, and a wine, and three courses each.

Value for money: High

Worthwhile factor: Very high

Want more? Check out their website.

Les Bistronomes on Urbanspoon




4 Responses to “Les Bistronomes, Braddon”

  1. veronicashortandsweet October 21, 2014 at 6:17 pm #

    You had me at goat’s cheese soufflé !

  2. Jono October 21, 2014 at 11:02 pm #

    Lovely review and photos! So excited that there’s finally a proper French bistro in Canberra now. Please tell me they had escargots!!


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