Saturday, 16 August 2014

Lutece Bistro and Wine Bar - a truffle degustation from the French master

There are not too many foods which evoke a pure sense of indulgence, but for centuries, black truffles have been sought out by chefs for their aromatic, earthy and indulgent flavour.  The French Black Truffle grows in the roots of oak or hazel trees, with the edible portion harvested during the winter months, usually by specially trained dogs or even pigs.  Once the exclusive domain of regional France, Australia now has a very successful black truffle season, which has enabled the once almost inaccessible fungus to have become almost mainstream.

I say almost mainstream because at up to $9000 per kilo, the humble truffle is one of the most expensive food substances on the planet.  In previous years, we'd always take the opportunity to add truffle to a meal when offered - which usually meant a supplementation of fifty dollars a person for a few shavings of the 'black gold'.  Even our most recent visit to Vue De Monde was elevated to our most expensive meal ever due to the inflationary impacts of truffle (see post here).

Even though we've always added truffle to a meal, interestingly, we've never taken the next step of attending one of the many truffle dinners that are invariably offered each year in Brisbane.  Well, that was until recently, when we were invited along to check out the Lutece Bistro seven course truffle degustation dinner by renowned French chef Romain Bapst.  Romain hails from Strasbourg in France but has lived in Australia since 1990, where he has worked in some of Australia's finest restaurants before establishing his little French bistro in Bardon.  Most impressively, Romain is the President of Bocuse D'or Australia, which is perhaps the most quintessentially French and prestigious cooking competitions in the world.

We arrived at Lutece nice and early for our 7pm reservation and were led straight to the bar for a complimentary glass of champagne (for SC at least).  While we were waiting in the bar area, we were struck by the clientele that were dining at Lutece for the truffle dinner, whom were clearly well-to-do locals that knew their way around the restaurant.  At one point, SC and I were the youngest guests in the restaurant, but thankfully this didn't remain the case, with some other guests joining us helping bring down the average age of the room.

We were treated to an appetiser of a slice of pizza with black truffle, a rather contemporary method of eating black truffle.  It was our first glimpse into an evening that would be filled with creative dishes that perfectly captured the essence of French cuisine and black truffle.  While pizza would not be strictly considered traditional French fare, the addition of the truffle certainly helped us forget and enjoy the earthy flavours.

It was time to make our way to our table and we would be dining with some of our favourite foodies around town, sharing our truffle meal with people who really knew their stuff, including Romain, who joined us for part of the meal.  First up was the duck foie gras with black truffle 'comme une truffe'. The foie gras was beautiful and creamy, with a rich, dark and mysterious flavour that really benefited from the earthy tones from the truffle.  The truffle shavings were like little chips that also added some texture to the creamy foie gras.  We were off to a great start.

Our second course was interesting in that it completely confused most of us at the table.  We were not sure what to expect when we noted that the course was to be black truffle soup with pheasant and celeriac, but we didn't expect a pie!  The beautifully buttery pastry sitting atop the soup cleverly hid the surprise underneath, which was an intensely flavoured broth with poached pheasant and lashings of black truffle.  I love it when my expectations are completely blown away by the unexpected and the pheasant pie that-was-really-a-soup did just that.

One of the most amazing pieces of cookery and flavour combinations I've had in a while was next with the Glacier 51 sea bass with deep sea scallops, 'mariniere' bulgur and black truffle.  The sublimely cooked sea bass had beautiful flavour and just fell apart under the knife and worked perfectly with the creamy mariniere sauce.  Even better was the sublimely cooked deep sea scallop, which had a wonderful caramelisation and heaps of sweet scallopy flavour.  Bringing the whole together was the lovely earthy flavour of the black truffle, which was plentiful and delicious.

The main course of the night was very French, with White Rocks milk fed veal shoulder with the fillet and butternut and garniture 'bourgeoise', sweet bread, mushrooms and black truffle.  What was incredible about this course was the beautiful sauce, that married wonderfully with the gamey flavour of the veal, which in turn was enhanced buy the black truffle.  The whole dish was very earthy, especially with the sweet breads, which provided an extra dimension of flavour, which while not for everyone, is a flavour that I quite like.  The veal fillet was incredibly tender and once mopped up with the sauce, was a real highlight of the evening.

Personally, I'm not a fan of a cheese course in a degustation but it is very traditional and the 'La Cocotte' warm 'Saint Maure; with gala apples, sauternes and black truffle was pretty nice.  Thankfully the soft cheese was quite mild, so I was able to enjoy it, especially when it was combined with the apple puree, which had a beautiful sweetness to it.  Of course, it was the truffle that was the star of the dish and it paired wonderfully with the cheese and sweet apple.

Upon first appearance, there was no truffle to be seen with the dessert of chocolate gianduja with double cooked anglaise with lemon thyme, but it was there.  The truffle was hidden in the chocolate gianduja, which was a chocolate spread containing about 30% hazelnut.  The dessert was like a fondant and inside was a heap of black truffle, which provided some texture to the otherwise creamy and smooth chocolate sauce.  I always love combining warm runny chocolate with creamy anglaise sauce and the combination was really working for me, I loved it.

We had enjoyed a fabulous night of truffle, which was interspersed with bouts of stimulating conversation with head chef and owner Romain Bapst.  It was wonderful to get Romain's view on life, food and his approach to food - he really knows his market and has created a restaurant that is perfect for the area and the time.

For those of you who can count (and inclined to), you've probably noticed that I've only included six courses from a seven course degustation.  One of the courses was actually champagne rose granite with black truffle and because I don't drink, I didn't partake in that particular truffle course.

Our meal at Lutece was the first we've had where every course included truffle and I have to say, it was lovely.  The meal was well constructed by Romain with each course building on the last but my favourite of the night was easily the fish course, which was quite spectacular.  It was one of those degustations that take a while and we were in the dining room for well over three hours, but the time just disappeared, a sure sign of an amazing night.


**We were a gust of Romain for this truffle degustation meal

We were at the restaurant for so long, we outlasted almost everyone!
Fine dining in Bardon

Lut├Ęce Bistro & Wine Bar on UrbanspoonLutece Bistro & Wine Bar


  1. It's a shame how Romain treats his staff.

  2. Obviously a disgruntled ex-staff member that were let go for not doing their job probably would write such a personal comment!


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