511 Malvern Road
Toorak VIC 3142
+61 3 9824 0888
It was a perfect autumn day when Marty and I trammed down Malvern Road to meet up with my friend, Matt, and his misses, Mel, for lunch with a French twist. The destination was French-born Thierry Cornevin’s Bistro Thierry, a stalwart in Melbourne’s French dining scene. Sitting comfortably on stylish Hawksburn village, Bistro Thierry has been dishing up reliable Parisian bistro fare for a number of years with class, minus pretentiousness. Its pretty black and white awnings and its crisp white linen tablecloths made it the type of bistro that one could easily find in Paris, with Emmanuelle Mimieux, the epitome of casual-chic, dining in it. Unfortunately, there were no pretty, young blondes dining at the restaurant that day but there were quite a lot of elderly locals tucking into their minute steaks as if it was something they did every Saturday afternoon.
We were here for the $35 express lunch. You know the deal, two courses, a glass of wine and tea or coffee after the plates have been cleared. At most restaurants, there is normally a choice of two or even three dishes for each course to select from but at Bistro Thierry? There were at least four dishes to choose from. While we all liked the extensive choices available, this made choosing our dishes more difficult. Ah, the paradox of choice. Now at this point, I’d normally include an obligatory shot of the restaurant’s interior. Unfortunately, the only shot I have of the neat-lined wine glasses at the bar and tables full of well-dressed elderly patrons have Mel and Marty’s faces in it and Marty would KILL me if I posted that photo up. Heh.
We were given a basket of fresh bread to start off with – I saw our loaf being cut up like Marie Antoinette’s head with the guillotine-like bread cutter by the bar. I want one of those, now! We were also given a lovely slab of French butter and two small vessels containing liquid. We weren’t told what the vessels held – and the waiter had already pissed off before we could – so we could only assume that the one containing the pale liquid had olive oil in it, and the one containing a dark red one was for the red wine vinegar. ‘Why the hell would they give us red wine vinegar, though?’ asked Matt. None of us knew, so we shrugged and left the jugs alone while we chomped on our bread slices.
A cute little bowl containing Dijon mustards, for the two of us who ordered steak haché.
Marty was the only person who had ordered an entrée. I would have normally ordered an entrée as well seeing as I’m not normally a dessert person but none of the entrée options took my fancy, so eh. Marty chose the French onion soup, which was served in a cute, little tureen-like bowl. Although it was tiny, it was unexpectedly very filling. This was not surprisingly as the soup had a lovely, rich texture and the lovely gruyere crouton, containing a wonderful amount of glorious carbs and fat in such a small space, also aided in making our tummies almost half-full. The soup itself was amazing – it was very flavoursome, with only the slightly hint of sweetness brought on by the soft, caramelised onions. Delicious.
As Marty finished the last dregs of his soup, we realised that we had not received our wines yet. Not only was this unusual for a restaurant that was supposedly of such calibre, but we noticed that diners who had arrived after us were happily sipping on their glasses of De Bortoli! We flagged down a waiter, and asked him why we hadn’t received our wines to which he simply looked at us, amused, and pointed to the two vessels on our table, ‘They’re here!’ he said with a slight chuckle before walking away. We all looked at each other, thinking ‘WTF?’ before I said, ‘Pfft, no, he’s just joking.’
Eventually, Mel and Marty started sniffing the contents of the vessels and after confirming that the liquids did, in fact, smell like alcohol, they said, ‘No, he’s right. This IS wine!’ Being the stubborn Taurean that I am, I refused to believe that those vessels contained our wines but when Matt started filling our glasses, I realised that the red liquid was NOT red wine vinegar but, in fact, my De Bortoli Cabernet Merlot.
We were such rookies; I bet the kitchen had a laugh at our expense!
In the midst of bitching about wannabe rock star Vietnamese dudes, our mains arrived. Both Mel and Marty chose the steak haché, a grilled minced eye fillet ‘steak’ served with lemon and parsley butter. It also came with fries and a simple garden salad. The ‘steak,’ which was essentially a mound consisting of mince, tasted a lot like hamburgers according to Mel. Marty was more specific, and made comparisons to Rockpool’s wagyu burger, heh. The ‘steak’ was full of flavor thanks to the fat content, which meant that both Mel and Marty got full pretty quickly.
A year ago, I would have probably ordered the bœuf bourguignon or even the Yarra Valley feta cheese and spinach omelette because I was on a Paleo eating plan. These days, however, anything remotely grain-related (except cereal and Tip Top white bread) goes so I chose the hachis parmentier as did Matt. The menu described it as a ‘baked pie of minced beef and tomato’ which I interpreted as consisting of yummy, yummy, flaky pastry (the main reason why I chose it – I felt like a bit of gluten). Instead, it was topped with mashed potato and there was no signs of gluten. Wahhhh. Not that I was disappointed for long. The portion might have looked tiny, especially in comparison to Mel and Marty’s steak, but it certainly filled us up thanks to all the creamy potatoes. The filling was delicious – the gravy was made with beef stock, but it was also full of tomatoes which gave the filling a lovely dash of pleasant sourness. The chunks of gravy beef were tender and buttery, and the potato topping just divine. It was like a shepherd’s pie, only better.
Ah, now if only Pie Face pies tasted half as good as this…
We were so full and ready to leave… until we realised that Mel, Matt and I still had dessert to go. Oops. Matt ordered the tarte tatin, a warm apple and caramel tart with calvados-scented ice cream. I didn’t get to try any of it but I was assured that it tasted as delicious as it looked.
Meanwhile, the ladies ordered the crème brûlée. The general consensus around the table was that the crème brûlée was amazing. Indeed, the custard was flavoursome and silky, with a slight coarse texture to it which I liked. I did, however, find the crust a bit TOO hard and struggled to break it cleanly with my spoon. A nice crème brûlée crust would easily give away with the slightest tap of a spoon but this one? Hell, I needed a machete to be able to break it easily. I’ve had better.
We all finished off with a coffee each. I had my usual latte, which was weak and insipid, probably thanks to the skim milk they used (slightly annoying seeing as I DIDN’T ask for a SKINNY latte) but it was included in the express lunch so I wasn’t too fazed. I thought the after-dinner mint was a nice touch, though, even though it had the same name of a certain horrible book and movie franchise.
We all had a wonderful time at Bistro Thierry. The food was fantastic, especially at that special price, and the service great despite a full dining room. I was actually worried about service standards after reading a few negative comments about the attitudes of the waiters on urbanspoon.com but I was relieved to find that we encountered none of that. Monsieur Thierry, in particular, was charming and lovely from the moment we stepped into the premises and after we had drained the last dregs of our coffees. We’d definitely be back.