552 Lonsdale St
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9670 0039
Two years ago, I was a newbie at my current workplace. What really annoyed me about having to work at this place was not the 8am starts nor the not-so-high salaries (Mr Manager, are you reading this? :p). No, what got my head spinning and my blood boiling was the fact that we were situated on the arse end of the city with NO DECENT EATERIES TO HAVE LUNCH AT. RAGE! My friends were flooding my Facebook news feeds with details of their wonderful two-course lunches at some Crown promenade restaurant or sending me text messages about the fillings of their Cafe Vue lunchbox. Meanwhile, I seethed silently as I chomped through a limp croissant bought at one of the nearby nondescript cafes and muttered ‘FML’ over and over as I opened up a packet of $3 about-to-go-off egg and lettuce sandwiches from 7-11.
Then things started to change. Last year, Frank Camorra popped out not one but two MoVida restaurants less than two blocks from my work. Then came EARL Canteen and their beautiful made-to-order sandwiches (review soon to come). But as much as I was stoked when those eateries opened, a 30 minute lunch break is hardly enough time for a proper sit-down meal (Mr Manager, are you still reading?). So when I heard that the guys who run Libertine in North Melbourne had opened up a cafe less than one block from my work… well, you can imagine how elated I was. I was happy just to be able to buy lunch at a place that did not serve old bain marie food and soggy sandwiches, but little did I know that Le Traiteur, which means ‘The Caterer’ in French, was the start of a 1pm addiction.
It’s amazing how news travels at the speed of light among Melbourne’s food blogging community. This place had only been in action for a week yet every. single. effing. table was full when I sauntered into the cafe one Friday afternoon. Wow. I spent a moment gazing hungrily at all the the plates filled with hearty daube de boeuf dotting each table before I snapped out of my reverie to do what I came to Le Traiteur to do: Buy a roast duck baguette.
Le Traiteur churns out baguettes twice daily and sells them for $9 a pop. They are approx. six inches long which doesn’t sound like much but they are more filling than a Subway roll (and to be fair, more fattening too). There is a decent range of fillings from vodka-cured ocean trout to rabbit terrine that will ensure that punters return for more. The first time I came here, they were sadly out of roast duck baguettes so I ended up choosing a baguette filled with confit Jerusalem artichoke, roast field mushrooms, fromage de meaux and sauce vert.
My disappointment quickly evaporated though when I bit into the crunchy crust which then gave way to a soft, chewy dough. The pairing of the Jerusalem artichokes and mushrooms provided a strong earthy hit and was complimented well by the nutty, runny brie-like cheese. The combination was then gingerly held together by the fresh, herby sauce vert. I did, however, feel a bit sick after eating the entire thing (which was cut in half for easier handling) – but only because I’m not used to eating such rich things for lunch on a weekday!
On Monday, I ‘accidentally’ failed to bring my lunch which gave me an excuse to pop down to Le Traiteur again. Knowing that the roast duck baguettes were selling like hot cakes, I knew I had to be quick. Once the elevator doors opened, I sprinted along William Street, ducked into Lt Lonsdale and ambushed my way past all the dawdling suits to get to the doors of the already-full Le Traiteur. And lo and behold, there was one single roast duck baguette sitting in the cabinet. For me.
There it is, folks. Thick pieces of roast duck breast with baked pear and caramelised onions. All held together with aioli and secured in that awesome baguette. MINE, ALL MINE! Seriously, it was one friggin’ awesome baguette. The rich, fatty, juicy duck meat and caramelised onions were mitigated by the bitterness of the raddichio leaves – all of which were held together by the sweet pieces of baked pear. I don’t want to be all CW TV about it but it was seriously OMFG!
Because it was just as rich as the Jerusalem artichoke baguette, I played it smart this time by only eating one half for lunch and saving the remaining half for afternoon tea. This meant that I did not feel as bloaty for the rest of the working afternoon, and also meant that my colleagues had to deal with the smell of roast duck emancipating from my desk whenever they walked past my desk. Ha!
Le Traiteur, you have made me look forward to getting up each morning to rock up to work. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Arse end of the city? Well, it looks like this arse has now received a sexy butt lift!