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
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
2 dozen escargot
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
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.