French Saloon – Melbourne, City – Monday 10 April 2017 – Lunch

It is not every day a collection of restaurants has such an impact on a diverse range of dining and drinking experiences. The European, City Wine Shop, and most importantly The Supper Club (and Siglo), are three places that captured my imagination many years ago, and have held it to this day. It seems without even knowing it, the people behind these stunning establishments, have grabbed me in the opposite end of town.

Kirk’s Wine Bar is not a place that grabs your immediate attention. In fact, it looks like a lot of wine bars I’ve been to overseas. It is the feeling here that is special. Somehow many of those I’ve been with there, feel the same way too. The fascinating part is why I feel drawn to it whenever I’m in that part of town, whether shopping, after lunch, for pre-dinner drinks, or pretty much any other time.

Naturally, upstairs was always going to end up capturing my attention. It’s not the same, but the walk up the stairs is a bit like going up to the Supper Club. What is upstairs though is a tribute to the casual dining of France. Not that the French do anything that is actually that casual. The French Saloon is put together in this manner.

There is not a prestigious fitout, and the tables are not overdone, but there is a sense of bistro luxury and a feeling of belonging, even if it is just any other Monday in Autumn. From the greeting to the goodbye, there is an ease about this place. If only the menu were as easy. There was no debate, but after a fair bit of catching up, we really needed to order something.

Chris had his eye on the kingfish which I was happy to share. I like the sound of the spanner crab toast and we ordered one each. It was a great start.

The kingfish is served with delicate presentation, surrounded by thinly sliced cucumber. However, the staff direct you to mix it all up, allowing the sauce to combine with the oil and creating a smart combination. The spanner crab is curiously presented half adorned with avocado, and the other half with salmon roe. The toast works well initially, holding together, until it all falls apart in the last few bites. As you can imagine, using a knife and fork does not inhibit the delicate flavour.

For mains, we had decided to share the Cote de Boeuf, along with a side of fries and of the gem lettuce with anchovy sauce. Having ordered medium rare, the steak seems on the medium side, but was still beautifully tender and well seasoned. The strong jus was absolutely superb, lifting the steak to greater heights. The chips were excellent, while the gem lettuce could have been a touch too powerful with its anchovy dressing, to refresh and dull the impact of the steak and jus.

The Pinot Noir we were drinking from Gippsland was at the suggestion of our waitperson, as the bottle Chris selected was off the list. It was an excellent choice, not necessarily matching our choices perfectly, but versatile enough to enjoy with, or without food. In fact, the service on a reasonably busy Monday lunch was great.

As we finished lunch, I asked Chris about his phone call into 3AW, where he had shared with the breakfast presenters his insights from his experiences at Eleven Madison Park, which had very recently won the title of “world’s best restaurant”. When we walked downstairs Chris saw one of his friends at Kirk’s and he too got asked about the same conversation! Like so many meals, ending it with conversations about other meals seems fitting.

The French Saloon is different to the other offerings of this group, but it has the same hospitable feel and warmth. I’m sold on everything they do, though I almost wish I didn’t know they were all connected.

French Saloon Bar & Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Crabapple Kitchen – Hawthorn – Friday 29 August 2014 – Lunch

Crabapple Sliders

Crabapple Sliders

Hawthorn has a rich selection cafes, many of which are Melbourne’s best. This includes Porgie + Mrs Jones, Axil Roasters, Liar Liar, and several others I’ve tried, which all have their own distinctive personality. Yet I find the dynamic between Hawthorn, and its close neighbour Richmond (where I live and work), to be very different.

It could just be me. I’ve been a repeat visitor to many of these cafes but have never become a regular. It could be the fact that my compass leads me towards the city rather than further East, even though I’m happy to travel a long way for a good breakfast. Either way I am often more comfortable in Richmond.

Crabapple Kitchen may be in a similar vein, though there is a dish on this menu that I can’t get out of my mind. The “Crabapple Slider” featuring spanner crab in brioche along with Granny Smith apple, breakfast radish, and mustard cress, is a wonderful dish. The delicate crab works in complete harmony with the buttery richness of the brioche. The julienned Granny Smith apple, mustard cress, and breakfast radish, are excellent accompaniments, with mayonnaise bringing it all together.

The cafe itself, on a busy part of Glenferrie Road near the train station, is playful and charming. The floorstaff wear bluetooth ear pieces which I’m not sure about, as it is a little disconcerting when you realise they are being spoken at, while also speaking to you. Other than when they are interrupted mid-sentence they are polite and friendly.

The great thing about this cafe is the outdoors area out the back. There is plenty of seating and the heaters are on, but it would be even better if it was a warm sunny day. Although a little chilly today, everyone is in good spirits as you would expect at Friday lunch.

Crabapple Kitchen is a fantastic venue with really interesting breakfast and lunch dishes not to mention a great drinks list that is particularly important for Friday lunch!

Crabapple Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Duck balls

Duck balls

Post script

Not having been able to get the Crabapple sliders out of my head, we were back for another lunch. This time I settled on just one and shared the spiced duck meatballs too.

The balls came on a bed of smashed butterbean, plenty of mashed avocado and some goat’s feta. The balls themselves were delicious, though naturally losing some of their gaminess by being minced and spiced. The chilli topping the balls was just the right heat and the other accompaniments worked well. Julie asked for some sourdough to help mop up the butterbean concoction and it was a stroke of genius. I proceeded to make mine an open sandwich and I suggest others do the same!

There was a good amount of energy in the cafe again and it was full for Friday. The wine list is quite diverse and we all chose different glasses. To finish we all shared the brownie. There are several additions to the dish to make it a modern gourmet dessert, but the star is the brownie which is rich and gooey. It definitely would be a tough ask for one person.

Another good experience and my need for crab and apple in a slider is a little duller (but surely will come back again quite soon).

Crabapple Kitchen on Urbanspoon