116 Rathdowne St
Carlton VIC 3053
+61 3 9347 7507
In a city where punters marvel over dishes such as squids cooked in red wine with fromage blanc froth and bergamo, and where high-end modern French restaurants get three-hats despite having only been on its new site for less than a month (Mr Bennett, I’m staring daggers at you), classic Gallic cafes such as Paris Go are becoming harder to find. Okay, so it doesn’t have the drawcard of a celebrity chef, a glamorous location or even a kitchen that fiddles around with modern techniques, which seems to be the way to go these days. But what Paris Go does, it does well and that is serving genuine old school French favourites in a relaxed, homely environment.
The truth was that Adam and I weren’t planning to have dinner at Paris Go. I can’t remember what our original plans were (this dinner occurred way back in February (!)) but it didn’t involve walking up to Carlton in the rain but that’s what we did. That is, once I booked a table for two using the bookarestaurant app that I had recently installed on my iphone. When we got there, however, we were told that they didn’t have our booking on file. I’m not sure whether it was because the app was faulty (in which case, I curse you, Mitch!) or whether the fact that we had only booked 15 minutes ago meant that it hadn’t quite registered with the restaurant’s booking system, though I’m inclined to say the latter. In any case, there were still a handful of free tables so we happily picked one against the inner wall of the tiny L-shaped dining room.
Pretty little butter circles!
I ordered the ‘escargots a ‘la forestiere’ ($15), not only to allay any residual feelings of apprehension that I had when it came to eating snails but because Shirley and I had been talking about snails in French restaurants in the week leading up to this dinner (for whatever reason). The snails were chewy as one would expect, probably slightly tougher than the snails and pigs’ tail dish I once enjoyed at Cumulus Inc though. The rich, earthy flavour of the roasted mushroom cups in which the snails were snuggled in went well with the molluscs and the lovely herbed garlic butter that they were infused with.
Adam had the French onion soup ($13), or the soupe a l’oignon gratinee, if pretentiousness is your kind of thing. A far cry from the tasteless and watery bowl of insipidness that he made for French class back in his school days, the soup already ticked the ‘looks’ box when it appeared dried-blood red (okay, not the most apt description but I’ve been watching The Wire so can you blame me?). It was rich, comforting and full of lovely sweet caramelised onion flavour flecked with gruyere cheese, with a bit of garlic for added depth. And on top? A crunchy piece of garlic bread.
For our mains, we both had the filet Bearnaise ($35), cooked rare. 250g of ‘prime export quality’ eye fillet arrived on the table with a knife it its eye socket, and some lovely béarnaise sauce. It was a decent steak – cooked the way we liked it and flavoursome – and we enjoyed it, but without being blown away. Think of a Squires Loft steak, but without the awesome tangy baste that they marinade their steaks (and their other meats) in before cooking them. On that note, I think I’d rather go to Squires Loft given that I do like their steaks a lot better and you’re paying the same price for the same cut anyway.
We also had a green salad (oh excuse me, salade verte, $5) and fries ($5). Because we love fries. Not so much salads, but eh.
Overall, our Paris Go experience was decent. It doesn’t pretend to be what it’s not – it’s a simple, small restaurant serving traditional French food. And they do it well, too. Go there and expect warm, French hospitality and humour (“Stop looking at your Blackberry and pay attention to the pretty lady,” a waiter scolded Adam) and bistro fare and you won’t be disappointed.