Monday, 3 September 2007

A review and a recipe

Following a week of celebrations I decide to take advantage of a warm Sunday afternoon to book us in for a lunch along the Yarra soaking up the precious Melbourne afternoon sunshine. The restaurant of choice is The Brasserie by Philippe Mouchel. The food is classic French, elevated by Mouchel’s outstanding skill and knowledge, without straying too far from tradition. His experience of having trained in French Michelin star restaurants is evident and he executes classic dishes perfectly. While I appreciate the intricacies of molecular gastronomy, for a long weekend lunch on the river, foams and dusts have no place. Instead I seek out excellent produce, beautiful presentation and exceptional flavours and fortunately Philippe Mouchel successfully ticks all of those boxes.

Mouchel’s new neighbours include Nobu and Neil Perry with Guillaume Brahim destined to follow soon. Despite significant investments to create this new Melbourne dining precinct, I find it difficult to forget we are merely metres away from the horrendously fluorescent monstrosity that is Crown Casino. Thankfully unlike his new trendy neighbours, Mouchel has opted for a clean, minimal interior that gives the impression of a restaurant that will stand the test of time. With its tree-lined terrace overlooking the river, this is the perfect sanctuary in which to linger over lunch. I can see myself becoming a regular.

I begin with Tasmanian salmon gravlax, spelt blinis, crème fraîche and condiments. Beautifully presented this is a lovely combination of simple clean flavours.

Gravlax de saumon de mer de Tasmanie, blinis d'épeautre et crème fraîche, condiments 18.50

We also sample the Snails Provençale tomato fondue, garlic and parsley butter with puff pastry 17.50, a modified recipe for which can be found below. The most outstanding starter is the country style corn-fed chicken liver terrine, onion jam and toasted sourdough. The terrine has the most superb texture and is rich with complex flavours. It pairs perfectly with the onion jam and makes me keen to attempt this at home.

Terrine de campagne, confiture d'oignon, pain au levain 18.00

There is an almost overwhelming array of mains from which to select but the medley of duck – roasted breast, poached leg and handmade sausage with ragout of Victorian green lentils stands out. The leg has the texture of confit and the meat falls away from the bone. The sausage works beautifully with the lentils and while the breast is one of the leanest I've eaten, it rounds the medley out perfectly.

Petit salé de canard aux lentilles vertes 38.50

I also sneak a taste of the pan roasted beef tenderloin with fresh green peppercorns. With its perfectly seared crust and meltingly tender interior it is an excellent piece of meat served with a delicate pommes dauphinoise.

Filet de boeuf au poiure vert et salsifis 35.50

We are given complimentary sides of pommes frites, mesclun salad with a classic vinaigrette and a remarkable potato and leek gratin that I hope to soon replicate.

Fortunately the staff at the brasserie pace our courses perfectly and we find room for the spectacular dessert tasting plate featuring;
Saint Honoré – choux pastry, hazelnut chiboust and chestnut cream
Traditional baba soaked in Cointreau liqueur, citrus salad, orange marmalade
Chocolate marquise
Apple crumble tart
Vanilla crème brûlée
Mango and vanilla ice creams

La brasserie assiette de dégustation 14.00 p.p

The service is warm and attentive. To our delight as it is Father's Day every male diner is presented with a pair of cuff links. What makes this long lunch particularly enjoyable is that despite the prices listed above, Philippe Mouchel offers 3 courses and a side dish at lunch for the less than princely sum of $43.90. Unlike most set menus you are able to select from all the à la carte dishes with the exception of two. It is remarkable value given I would happily pay the à la carte prices for food and service of this calibre.

The Brasserie by Philippe Mouchel
Riverside at Crown, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank
Ph: 9292 7808
Lunch midday-3pm seven days; dinner Sun-Thurs 6pm-10.30pm, Fri-Sat 6pm-11pm

As promised now for the recipe... I have adapted the below from one of Philippe Mouchel's own to suit my personal tastes. It takes mere minutes to prepare yet makes a beautiful French bistro style dinner party starter. Escargot are readily available in most delicatessens these days and the puffy pastry hats are a lovely way to present them. Our lunch reminded me I had some that needed cooking. I adore these juicy morsels bathed in buttery herb and garlic juices. The pastry topping is an indulgent alternative to the usual slices of baguette I dip into the garlic butter.

Escargot in garlic and parsley butter with a puff pastry topping

Serves 4

2 dozen escargot
150g/5oz butter
2 cloves chopped garlic
2 finely chopped shallots
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp almond meal (optional)
generous pinch salt
pinch white pepper
pinch grated nutmeg
3 sheets puff pastry
beaten egg

Pre-heat oven to 200C or as directed by puff pastry package. Sauté the garlic and shallots in the butter. Add the escargot and season with salt, nutmeg and pepper. Stir through the almond meal to thicken if necessary. Toss through the parsley. You will finish the dish in the oven so you need not cook the snails through. Just the briefest searing will suffice.

In individual dishes spoon in a portion of escargot (6 per person). Cut lids to top each individual dish from the puff pastry. Use one of your dishes as a guide to trace out an appropriately sized circle. Top the escargot filled dishes with pastry circles. Brush with a beaten egg for a golden finish. Cook in an oven at 200ºC for 15 minutes or until pastry is puffed and golden. Serve immediately with a green salad and crisp white wine.


Thistlemoon said...

Looks like a wonderful treat! I especially like the looks of that gravlax!

Figs, Bay, Wine said...

That petit salé looks and sounds like my idea of heaven! Wow!! And the escargots recipe is heavenly - I think I want to serve that at a dinner party this fall. Thank you!

Katie Zeller said...

Everything looks so lovely - how could you ever decide? You'll have to go back...often!
I'll have the gravlax and the duck, please!

Truffle said...

Jenndz- I loved their presentation of the gravalx. I may have to copy that ;)

Figs olives wine- you're very welcome! That's so much for reading.

Katiez- I am almost already planning a return visit. Great choices!

Anonymous said...

Truffle, this is one of your best posts ever! I thnk you have a real gift for describing meals. And your photography is so elegant. You make things look and soound so delicious! Keep up the good work. I look foward so much to reading you!

Anh said...

What a lovely day you have Truffle.... :)

Cindy said...

Lunch looks like excellent value at that price! The gravlax presentation is so interesting and the dessert looks a lot of fun too.

Truffle said...

Anon- Oh goodness! Thank you so much. You have made my day :)

Anh- Thanks. I hope you enjoy Kenzan and we get to hear all about it!

Cindy- thank you! I hope you're feeling better. I love good value dining experiences.

neil said...

Nice lunch, but I wished you hadn't followed up with the wife won't let me cook them and you have just reminded me how much I miss them!

Cynthia said...

Looks like you made great choices in the dishes, they all look and sound mighty delicious.

Big Boys Oven said...

I would say, you had a great and fabulous meal that I will die Really cool.

jfox said...

i really enjoyed reading your post truffle, sounds like a wonderful experience! (also love the pic of the dessert platter :D )

Truffle said...

neil - You'll just have to indulge in them at restaurants whenever you get the chance. I can think of worse things. Thanks for reading :)

Cynthia - they were pretty good. I was craving that terrine today but my arteries are probably glad it wasn't readily available.

Big Boys Oven - You really should go!

jfox - I'm glad you enjoyed it. The dessert platter was wonderful. An excellent assortment of richer and lighter desserts that worked together perfectly.

Kelly-Jane said...

Looks like a lovely restaurant, very stylish. I do so like French food :)

Paul said...

Hi Truffle,
I love your comment about the our hideous casino. So true!
Where did you get your escargots? Do you fresh snails? I have a tin in my cupboard, but Im scared to use it...X

ilingc said...

truffle, what a lovely lunch! i love the look of the salmon gravlax and the dessert plate.. oh my.. :)

Agnes said...

I went there for lunch a couple of weekends ago and really enjoyed it too! I also had the terrine and dessert platter. Delish! :)

Truffle said...

Kelly-Jane - I love French food too. It is perhaps my favourite! Thanks for posting.

The Gourmand - The quality of the tinned ones is reasonably, especially when doused in garlic and parsley butter. They seem to be widely used in restaurants these days but for some award winning ones have a look here:

ilingc - it was absolutely delightful. Thank you so much for reading!

Agnes - I'm so pleased to hear that. The dessert platter is a real treat!

Serenity Later said...

Just like to concur with the other commenters on how wonderful this post of yours is truffle! Love your descriptions & pictures (that gravalax looks superb!). Oh and as for your escargot recipe, who knew there'd be the day when i'd be drooling over a picture of snails! Delicious!!!!

ritu said...

hello truffles,
just stumbled upon your blog very very nice. french food is nice, although I think sometimes the nouvelle part of it has made alot of traditional food die down
beautiful blog

thanh7580 said...

The restaurant looks great. Is the lunch special available on weekends all year round or does it end soon?

I just tried snails recently and really liked them. I will try to give your recipe a go, if only I can find some snails to buy.

Truffle said...

Serenity Later - oh thank you so much!

Ritu- thanks for popping by! I agree. I prefer simple, traditional fare any day.

Thanh- It's a lovely spot. The special is available all year and even on weekends so is fabulous value. On some holidays they do push a set menu instead though so check ahead if booking on valentines day etc.

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Wonderful meal and write up. Someone wrote that you have a gift for describing meals and you really do, it also extends to describing places too... A week of celebrations eh?

Paul said...

Thankyou very much. X

Wendy said...

Wish we had a "dining precinct"; that sounds great!
Will have to buy a map of Melbourne someday and start mapping out where you do and don't recommend. Never know i may make it across someday!

Truffle said...

Amanda at Little Foodies - thanks so much. That's very kind of you! I'm afraid the celebrations were all family related but it was a good excuse for a family lunch :)

The Gourmand - You're very welcome xx

Wendy - You really must visit some day. I'm sure you'd love it. I always recommend our spring/your autumn as the best time.

Nora B. said...

Hi Tuffle, that sounds like a terrific meal. It's so good that you could enjoy that long lunch without feeing rushed. Everything looks so good.

Your escargot with the puff pastry is also a wonderful idea. I do eat escargots at restaurants but never prepare it myself. I'm not so brave... ;-)

p/s: Have you been to Nobu? They opened one in Sydney last month.

Truffle said...

Nora B. - I love long lunches. They always seem like the perfect indulgence.

I know they're a bit retro but I think escargot make for a cute dinner party idea, especially when dressed up with the pastry. I'm afraid without it sometimes they're not the most appealing sight. I promise they're very easy to prepare given I'm quite the kitchen wimp The only thing I should warn you about is not overcooking them because nobody likes a rubbery snail!

I haven't tried Nobu yet but have heard some good things. I don't like the room very much but it's the food that matters. Have you tried the Sydney one?

Nora B. said...

Thanks for the tips about the snails. I haven't tried Nobu here, my priority is set on Tetsuya. Can you believe that I still haven't been there??? I've been waiting to convince a few friends to go along, but some don't out a high value on food. But I think it's worth it. Someday soon, I hope!

Truffle said...

Nora B. - oh yes Tetsuya is a must!
Worth every cent too in my opinion! Hopefully you'll be able to convince a few friends of that :)