Victoria is crazy about all things French: just look at the crème brûlée, duck confit, caviar and seafood platters splashed across restaurant menus. The new places offer traditional service and very comfortable classic dishes, while the old faithful are busier than ever.
Here are 10 spots that cover every French craving, from morning café au lait to digestive, at a range of price points. On it goes!
CAFES, BAKERIES & PASTRIES
Over a decade later and with a second location under its belt, this destination cafe is still true to its mission of bringing a little indulgence to a tried-and-true format in Melbourne. Here, bowls of goodness are replaced with twice-baked soufflés. Katherine Place Cafe has a slightly larger menu but signatures, such as Lobster Benedict and fried brioche slices with fruit and caramel, are available at both. The watchful eye of owners Di and Will Keser means the interiors are perfectly charming, and your Market Lane cafe or French 75 cocktail will be perfect.
10 Katherine Square, Melbourne; 123 Hardware Street, Melbourne, hardwaresociete.com
The luxurious Benedict lobster at Hardware Societe. Photo: Eddie Jim
Q The Baker
Puff pastry croissants with almonds, snails in butter that crackle when pushed aside, rustic galettes with sweet and savory fillings: Q Le Baker is the dream of any pastry lover. Founded by Frenchman Quentin Berthnneau (now deceased) and former Baker D. Chirico manager Marion David, the craftsmanship of the bakery team is showcased through two large windows overlooking the kitchen. Look for the queue in the courtyard of Prahran Market and stand in line wondering if today is focaccia or sausage roll day.
Booth 709, Prahran Market, 163 Commercial Road, South Yarra, qlebaker.com.au
Soft baguettes and other delicacies on display at Q le Baker in Prahran, Photo: Christine Francois
The Gourmet Peach
Precision piping and rigorous layers define the lovely cupcakes on offer at this surprise gem in a small regional town. But it’s not all Opera and Paris-Brest cake. The team also faithfully bakes fluffy baguettes and sourdough each day, filled with roast chicken, perhaps, or charcuterie from the nearby Salt Kitchen Charcuterie. Have a few, along with your cakes, danishes or kouign-amann, and call it a balanced meal.
73 Albert Street, Creswick, lepechegourmand.com.au
Public wine shop
This little heritage storefront in Fitzroy North is the closest thing to a Melbourne dining cellar: a Parisian-style wine bar that sells wine but also offers small plates to those staying for a drink. Public Wine Shop lets you drink without eating, but the wine selection from importer Campbell Burton and his team is all the better with something from Ali Currey-Voumard’s short but tantalizing menu. Take one of the dozens of seats around the communal table or at the window and watch the world go by. But if you can’t? You’re sure to find something delicious to take home from the shelves that cover the walls.
79 St Georges Road, Fitzroy North, publicwineshop.com.au
Public Wine Shop and its marvelous wine wall in Fitzroy North. Photo: Eddie Jim
More bistronomy than sticky dishes, dishes at this contemporary bistro can include two-bite eclairs of sea trout and goat curd, vol au vent with mushrooms or crispy-skinned barramundi with peas and cheese. lemon. Restaurateurs Geelong Kate and Nathan Veach are behind Plume and place a strong emphasis on using Bellarine and Surf Coast products. The bedroom features exposed brickwork and other rustic touches, with splashes of turquoise adding a contemporary note.
56a Mount Pleasant Road, Belmont, bistrotplume.com.au
Pickle terrine at Bistrot Plume in Geelong. Photo: Supplied
Familiar dishes are served in a dining room with clever updates on French bistro features, creating something new for Daylesford. Pull a bentwood under the dark high ceilings and get ready to choose between French onion soup and parsley-Gruyere caneles, pithiviers with mushrooms and Provençal fish stew, bourride. The menu changes often, depending on what’s grown locally, but that’s all the more reason to return.
6-8 Howe Street, Daylesford, bistroterroir.com.au
The classic and contemporary Bistro Terroir in Daylesford Photo: Supplied
Would you like your duck confit with a deliciously good people-watching side? Type France-Soir into the menu and let owner Jean-Paul Prunetti and his team take care of the rest. Satisfying Melbourne’s pub cravings for over 30 years, the white-covered tables are tight, the menu is the same as ever and the atmosphere is still fabulous, dear. What are you waiting for?
11 Toorak Road, South Yarra, france-soir.com.au
France-Soir French restaurant in South Yarra. Photo: Eddie Jim
Caramel cream. Steak tartare. Gougères with chicken liver parfait. This all-day spot is only vaguely French, but the dishes it has selected for its menu are sure to bring a smile to your dial. Take a crab omelette for a spin at breakfast, or skip to lunch for a cheeseburger pimped with raclette. Dinner could be duck fries or John Dory with white butter; don’t pass up a glass of Pol Roger while you’re there.
Ground Floor, 270 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, her.melbourne
Don’t miss the duck fries at Her Bar in town. Photo: Parker Blain
Smith Street Bistro
You might feel like you’ve stumbled upon Emily’s set in Paris at this new venue from Chef Scott Pickett. Its latest incarnation of this magnificent 1888 Collingwood building (previously used for Saint Crispin and then Lupo) is a love letter to the bistro. The menu reads accordingly, from pepper steak to chicken fricassee and Anna apples. Yes, you’ll find classics galore, but read between the lines and you’ll have a few (welcome) surprises that will bring this bistro into the 21st century.
300 Smith Street, Collingwood, smithstbistro.com.au
Like in a movie, this is Smith Street Bistro in Collingwood. Photo: Chris Hopkins