Hard to spell, easy to eat
Once again, we needed an occasion spot. This time the celebration of me
being a Gourmet Husband for two years, previous to that I was merely a
Gourmet Fiance. The short list was whittled down to two: The Deanery,
and Bistro Guillaume. We settled on the latter*, and made our way down
to Crown on a sunny Saturday evening to check it out.
We passed the teenage girls perusing the menu by the door ("eww, pigs
ears?!"), and were greeted warmly and shown to a table by the large front
windows overlooking the Southbank promenade and the Yarra beyond. The horizontal
blinds obscure enough to allow you to feel like you're not in a giant, gourmet-food
serving fish bowl, but equally allow you to happily watch the world walk (and float)
We selected pre-dinner gin & tonics, there was really no other options on 33 degree
day and getting from Carlton to Crown on public transport, which came promptly and
rather attractively with a generous shot of gin and ice, and tonic in its own mini-carafe.
Sarah in particular was enamoured with this arrangement ("it's so cute!"), hence the photo.
What followed was simply the best meal I have had in 2010 (thus far, it's still only mid-
February). After the initial amuse-bouche of cured kingfish in wafers, I selected the
Venison Carpaccio for entree ($26), and Sarah the Pig's trotter($25). The trotter came
filled with sweetbreads and wild mushroom mousse and frisee salad and crispy pig's ear.
While it was perfectly good, and I am particularly partial to a pig's ear (I'm similar to a
labrador in that respect), as far as I'm concerned it simply could not compete with the
For me to say an entree was the standout dish of the evening is quite the anomaly given
my notoriously sweet tastes. And don't think that this means any of the other courses were sub-par, it's just that the venison carpaccio was amazing. If you go to Guillaume, order it. That's an order. Served as five tender seared slices of venison with five equal slices
of beetroot all tied together with foie gras and rosemary vinaigrette, it was stunning.
Everything worked as individual elements, but the whole was so much more than the sum of the
parts. This dish is going to take some beating.
I guess I've left myself nowhere to go with mains, I had the Confit of Berkshire pork belly cooked for 48 hours, white bean puree and coleslaw ($38); Sarah one of the specials,
a Duck breast with caramelised witlof and cherries ($42ish). Both were extremely good,
the pork tender (as you'd expect with confit-ing for 2 days), the duck rare and juicy.
Desserts gave entree a run for it's money. And keeping with the theme of unexpected surprises, I didn't order the chocolate tart with orange glaze and sorbet. Sarah did.
Which was a wise choice, as it allowed us to swap halfway through and try both that
dessert, and the Liquorice panacotta with poached blood plums sorbet and berries. While perhaps sounding slightly dubious, the Gourmet Wife is now
suggesting I try something similar at home. Meanwhile, the chocolate tart amazingly soft with exactly the
bitterness of chocolate that I love.
If I had to complain about something, it would be that the wine list is skewed
quite heavily toward the high end of the scale. Unless I've got a very good reason I
generally don't like to spend three figures on a bottle of wine, but here there is little
choice below that. There are selections in the $60-$99 range, but nowhere near the amount
in the >$100 range. Luckily tonight I had a good reason to spend up, and we polished off a
fantastic Pascal Marchand 07 Burgundy ($105).
So that's the gauntlet thrown down to the rest of Melbourne (as if they care), this is
the meal by which all others will be judged. The debate is on-going as to where Guillaume
sits on our "all time" list, but it's certainly up there with the best of them. Thoroughly
A birthday indulgence
Step inside Bistro Guillaume and you're immediately hit by what it isn't: a gaudy, loud casino restaurant with ritzy glamour dishes and snooty wait staff.
Guillaume Brahimi's Melbourne venture is a probably a more understated venture than it's Sydney counterpart (although having not been yet, I can't really say that legitimately). Mind you, being in prime position in Crown Casino, you can't help but expect some level of theatrical hoo-ha. Thankfully, Guilluame relies on the quality of the food and excellent service rather than fancy names and flashing lights!
With all the talk-up it's seen since opening, it's fair to say that we had high expectations. To make it even harder, our last visit had secured Guillaume first place in our top 5: a place it would have to defend against several challengers from the last 6 months.
And defend it did. Bistro Guillaume is all about the very highest quality French food. The menu won't blow your mind with originality (in fact the first time I read it I was somewhat disappointed) but when the dishes start to arrive your taste buds will thank you. It's very traditional fare: think home made rillets, oysters served natural, confit duck, escargot etc. Be sure to try the charcuterie selection for entree (the rillets are fantastic), or if it's not offered as a special at least try the terrine du jour (changing daily).
For mains we shared a rib-eye (for 2-3 people, more towards 3!) and it remains to this day the most tender, flavoursome and perfectly cooked rib-eye either of us has had, including several of France's top restaurants. That should also indicate that this is not a place for vegetarians: while I'm sure they have a few vegetarian options, it'd be a waste of a night out if you're not the type to admire the Angus steers as you drive through the countryside thinking "That'd make a nice rib-eye...".
Service throughout the night was excellent, with only a couple of very minor slips. There is some debate between the Gourmet Husbands and Wives, but for me, the very best service should never be noticed, unless you want attention. My hat is off to the wait staff at Bistro Guillaume.
As you might expect, such a rave comes at quite a hefty price: You're not likely to get out of here for under $150pp, probably more like $200pp depending on the wines you choose, so it may be a good one for a special occasion (like a wife's birthday, perhaps!). The wine list is extensive (bring a bookmark), predominantly French and Australian and comes with a markup you'd expect at a casino restaurant: whites started at about $45/bottle and went upwards, and I noticed that the price column hit 5 digits once or twice. That said, the by-the-glass options are fantastic: mostly French, and not just the usual suspects, either. Don't dismiss them.
Guillaume has made a serious impact on the Melbourne food scene - I just hope that it can maintain such a high standard for years to come. For now, it stays number one, with a comfortable lead - an impressive feat in Melbourne.
- A dozen natural oysters
- Charcuterie plate
- Rib eye for 2-3
Fromage Frais with berry soup
Château de L'Hôspital 2007 Sauvignon Blanc Semillon
Château Balac 2004 Cabernet (Bordeaux)
Domaine Pichot 'Vouvray Moelleux' 1996 Late Harvest