Monday, 25 August 2014

Melbourne Series - Bistro Guillaume Crown Casino

I'm pretty fortunate in that I get to travel around the country a bit, which allows me to go to some pretty awesome restaurants outside of Queensland.  I was recently in Melbourne for a week and stayed in one of the best foodie complexes in Australia, Crown Casino.  Now I'm not a gambling man and don't really love the concept of gambling in a casino, but Crown sure does know how to put a whole complex together.  Some of the best restaurants in Melbourne are located at the Crown complex, which makes it really easy to get access to great food when staying at one of the Crown hotels.

I was down in Melbourne for a tech conference, which the geeky side of me always finds pretty exciting, but like the saying goes 'all work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy'.  So I took the opportunity in between bouts of serious work (well, as serious as you can get at a tech conference) to check out some nice dining spots.

We were in Crown Palladium for the conference, which is coincidentally just a few steps away from some amazing restaurants, including Rockpool Bar and Grill (see post here) and Number 8 (see post here), just to name a few.  I'd been to many others in the complex, but all prior to commencing my blog, so I really wanted to get in to write about one of my favourite little French bistros in Melbourne.  

Bistro Guillaume is one of the many restaurants around the country set up by Guillaume Brahimi and has been awarded an Australian Good Food Guide chefs hat, which is usually a pretty good indicator of quality.   Inspired by many of France's neighbourhood bistros, the restaurant has a very chic and Parisian feel about it, while maintaining a modern edge.  What I really love about Bistro Guillaume is their lunch time special, which comes in at a very special $49 dollars for two courses or $59 for three courses.  The prices are actually pretty unbelievable, considering many of the mains on offer start at $40 dollars anyway.

I was catching up with one of my former employees, who now works at the tech company running the conference, and one of my current team members.  It was an opportunity to get the old team back together and reminisce over old times.  It had actually been months since I'd see SG, so I was pretty excited to spend some time outside of a 'work' environment and just relax.

The menu at Bistro Guillaume reads like a contemporary French menu but still retains many of the classics that make French cuisine so special.  Even though there was the special pricing for the lunch menu, I was the only one in our group to go with an entree and main for lunch.  SG being a vegetarian, had a very particular order for lunch and had to avoid many of the beautiful looking dishes on offer - perhaps I could have selected a  more appropriate restaurant for a vego :)

As the only diner to order an entree, I went with something pretty simple and a dish that I normally find irresistible, the steak tartare with pommes gaufrettes.  A good steak tartare is just spectacular and a wonderful way to showcase good quality beef, but as simple as that sounds, the balance of the tartare is critical.  I'd been consuming quite a few tatares recently and the moment I chomped down on the Guillaume version, I knew that the balance was out.  It was really, really acidic.  So much so that it was hard to get any other flavours and indeed the beef flavour was drowned out by the acidic bite. The pommes gaufrettes (essentially chips) didn't really have the texture or flavour to balance out the acidity, which may have occurred if there was a sweet toasted brioche to go along with the tartare.  I was pretty disappointed!

My disappointment turned to joy when I cracked on with my main course of chargrilled King salmon with confit of leek and fennel with an olive tapenade and lemon vinaigrette.  The salmon was cooked incredibly well and literally just fell apart under my knife.  It had a beautiful fresh buttery flavour that reminded of the sea, which was helped along with the lemon vinaigrette.  I'm not a fan of olive tapenade and mostly avoided the black and salty tapenade, but the small bits that I couldn't avoid actually enhanced the flavour of the salmon.  I wasn't brave enough to get a huge hit of the tapenade, but I'm sure olive lovers would have really loved the taste.

One of the other dishes that hit the table was the Berkshire pork belly served with pickled cabbage and apple salad.  Not only did the pork belly look amazing but it had a beautiful rich flavour that worked incredibly well with the apple salad (one of the most classic of combinations).  The pork belly was cooked wonderfully, was soft and jube-like where it needed to be and had a spectacular and delicious crackling that RM saved to last!

A vegetarian in a French bistro is normally a recipe for disaster, but there were a number of sides and salads that looked pretty interesting.  SG opted for the cauliflower gratin, the watercress salad with endive, pear, Roquefort, and walnut vinaigrette and the Jerusalem artichokes, beurre blanc and walnuts for her meal.  Thinking that they would be smaller sides, SG was staggered to see the huge plates of food that came out and after she'd made her way through the massive and tasty cauliflower gratin, didn't have too much room for anything else!

It was a relatively short lunch by modern standards, we were in and out of the restaurant within an hour.  It wasn't particularly busy for a mid week lunch, even with the pretty spectacular pricing, which meant that we were well looked after by our French waitress.

It was funny, before we'd actually ordered our meals, we were given some crunch French baguette and salted butter to munch on, and SG had a full mouthful of baguette when our waitress asked for her order.  Sure, it was probably a faux pax for a waitress to ask for an order when you have a mouth full of food but she covered it beautifully by saying that she was French and understood baguette!! Classic.

Overall the meal was pretty good, with the main exception being my steak tartare starter, which was really not that pleasant to eat.  The mains and sides were well cooked, very delicious and very much devoured.  I'd love to have checked out the Guillaume at Bennelong but that ship had sailed when Guillaume's main restaurant closed its doors in late 2013.  Luckily, the top Aussie / French chef has a new restaurant opening real soon, so I'll be able to check it out next time I'm in Sydney.  I can't wait!

The pork belly was seriously good
The huge salad went largely uneaten - SG's allergic to onion and there was spring onion in the dressing!
The Jerusalem Artichokes were quite unique in the beurre blanc 

And the very chic and Frenchy bar

Bistro Guillaume on UrbanspoonBistro Guillaume


  1. this looks great - how much was the food? Also, his new joint in paddo is open :)

  2. Bob, it was pretty reasonable for the special deal, 49 for two courses, but for comparison, the mains were all 40-42 and the entrees about 25. I looked to see if his new joint was open, but it doesnt look like it yet!


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