I’d been a good girl during the week by eating lots of healthy (read: boring) foods and by doing lots of exercise either at the gym or busting squats and lunges in my bedroom. So when the weekend came, I figured that it was time to reward myself by indulging in some not-so-diet-friendly French bistro fare.
Today was pretty warm so Adam and I decided to have lunch at The Brasserie by Philippe Mouchel, one of the many restaurants situated at Crown Casino’s tree-lined terrace section, facing the Yarra (Its official name is “The Brasserie by Philippe Mouchel” but it’s too long and inconvenient to say so I will be referring to it as The Brasserie for simplicity’s sake). The décor is very modern and lined with mirrors to give it an illusion of space (it wasn’t a very big restaurant). And it wasn’t too bad outside either! Bollinger umbrellas provided shade for several white-linened tables which held the finest cutlery that one ought to expect from a place like this. At 12:30 on a Sunday afternoon, the place did seem quiet for a hatted restaurant but then again, the current economic situation is probably making people think twice about splurging on epic lunches. Not that that stopped the table of 10 cashed-up bogans sitting next to us though. And us, for that matter…
If you’re tight-arsey watching your money like me, you might wish to take up The Brasserie’s lunch offer where you can choose three courses, plus a side dish from the a la carte menu for $45 per head (or 2 courses plus a side for $39.50). It is valid every day of the week except for special days such as Christmas, New Years, Valentine’s Day etc because that’s when many restaurants think that it’s okay to offer “special” menus and charge $200 per head because “it’s suuuch a speshhhul daaaaay.” Pfft. But anyway, back to the non-special-day lunch special. Given that most of the entrees cost $20 and that most of the mains are in the mid-to-high $30 price range, that’s a pretty damn good deal. Because Adam and I were hungry (since when are we not?), we decided to go for three courses.
Straight after our orders were taken, we were given two pieces of fresh-from-the-oven olive breads accompanied by Jindi olive oil and house-made dukkah, a mixture of nuts, seeds and Middle Eastern spices (which looked a lot like “birdseed” according to Adam, heh). This was the first time I’ve actually tried olive bread and I loved it. I found a recipe for it in the newspaper the other day so perhaps I’ll give it a go sometime.
Not long after, our entrees were presented. Adam’s four King prawn fritters came with a tree branch a blob of cos lettuce and spicy tomato chutney (which Adam raved on about). Adam initially thought that the prawn fritters would be crumbed like those dodgy Birdseye fish balls you get from the supermarket and Anglo-Italian eateries from the suburbs but they were, instead, wrapped with a basil leaf in something that resembled a rice paper roll, twisted like a bon-bon and then lightly fried. Pretty creative, I thought. They were surprisingly delicious – and not too oily either!
How’s this for an entrée! I had the assorted duck charcuteries sur planche, a wooden board which boasted all sorts of things duck-y. You also had the option of adding foie gras to the board but you had to pay an extra $10 or something, which I didn’t really want to do as much as I love foie gras. And hey, there were already too many things on the board anyway! I wish I could say that I loved every single thing there but while there were some elements such as the duck tartare that were sublime (first time I had raw duck too), the rest were just too rich for me. And while I usually like pate, I found that the brandy they used to make the pate was way too overbearing for my liking. Being an Asian, I guess duck always tastes better when it’s simply roasted. Or presented as Peking Duck at Flower Drum. Hehhh!
Now for the mains!
Yes, I know what it looks like.
No, it doesn’t taste as bad at it looks.
Presenting Adam’s pan-seared sirloin steak cooked medium rare (the only way to have steak, in my humble opinion) with French mustard (I would’ve preferred the béarnaise sauce but hey, who am I to make food decisions for Adam?!). It came with a bowl of perfectly cooked chips (below) which I thought would’ve looked much better on the same plate as the steak but I later realised that the juices would’ve drenched the chips and made them soggy and disgusting. The 280 grams of steak was a pleasure for Adam to eat, given how quickly he lapped it all up. I managed to have a bite of it and I could see why he enjoyed it. It was probably the most awesome piece of steak I’ve ever had – then again, I’m not a steak connoisseur just yet so I’m probably not the right person to ask about the quality of steaks at The Brasserie. But hey, suffice to say that it is ten times better than a Coles budget steak cooked burnt by your 16 year old sister and presented to you on a paper plate with ready-made coleslaw from Coles!
I was having a difficult time choosing between the lamb medley and the fish but in the end, the fish won (the seafood always win in the end!). Three John dory fillets were pan-fried to perfection and rested on a bed of saffron potatoes boulangere and herb sauce. This dish was unsurprisingly creamy yet not overly heavy. Although I couldn’t really taste anything “herby”, the soupy-sauce was tasty on its own (tasted a bit like cauliflower and cheese) and the bits of chorizo and diced tomato floating in the sauce added a nice edgy contrast to the more dominant smooth and velvety texture.
The sides that we got. They don’t look much different to each other, but the top one is Adam’s potato gratin (which he thought was too oily inside) and my cauliflower gratin which was nice enough but I probably would have enjoyed them more if I didn’t choose such rich dishes! I probably would’ve been happier ordering a salad or the sautéed mushrooms as a side.
Finally, the dessert tasting plate, which required a minimum of two people to eat it. After a bit of cajoling, I managed to get Adam to enjoy the tasting plate with me which was a huge effort on my behalf as he is one of those guys who’d rather sit back with a long black or something “manly” after a meal. Heh. When the dessert plate was brought out, however, he went WOW and headed straight for the vanilla ice cream. Tsk. It goes without saying that each of the desserts were yummy and yep, you guessed it, RICH. Apart from the nougat icecream, there was nothing that really stood out yet there was no definitely no complaining on our part as we tried to work through the entire plate (except for the glace cherry – I hate glace cherry!). Sadly, we couldn’t eat all of the baba and the apple crumble because we were both too damn full but we did manage to salvage all the ice creams before the sun melted them away!
“Can I start stabbing the ice cream Libs? Pleasepleasepleaseplease?!”
In short, we both agreed that The Brasserie is definitely a place that we’d come back for lunch again. For $45 per head, you can be assured that the food you get tastes great and will fill you up Foodstar-style. The views are terrific, the service friendly and swift and there were no major dramas throughout the lunch. While the food is definitely not innovative in the Vue du Monde sense, it’s simple bistro fare done very well despite a few shortcomings. The only problem for us was getting our arses out of the chair and walking out on a very very full stomach, no doubt having gained 5 zillion kilograms in that hour or two alone.
Bad bad girl Libby. I sentence you to two solid hours of hard labour at the gym tomorrow!