After a gluttinous two nights, a Wednesday night at Circa and Thursday night for the truffle party at St Ali, there was only one thing to do on a Friday. Go to Bistro Guillaume!
Yes, that place with the name nobody can pronounce....I self admittedly used to pronounce it "Guah-lah-may"...until I learnt the French pronounce it something along the lines of "Gee-yom". Thank you French Food Safari!
Although I had never visited Bisto Guillaume in it's former spot, next door to Rockpool, I was looking forward to trying out the revamped, renovated new location.
I had fairly high expectations, as Mum would always talk about how much she and Dad liked the food at his restaurant in Sydney, and that's a big deal because Dad is very, very particular about 'Western' restaurants. Give him a hole in a wall and noodles any day.
It's kind of hard to miss Bistro Guillaume. It's entryway being a very refreshing bright green, which doesn't seem very French, but works all the same!
The decor inside is just gorgeous, indeed reminiscent of a typical bistro in France, it felt very Parisian, but also very neat and at the same time, refreshing and modern with the bursts of green from the menus laid across the tables.
And I love those lights! Adding a touch of softness and romance to the room with their delicate shape.
We were seated outside, and even though it was July and was winter, it was quite comfortable as the gas heaters really pack a punch.
One thing that's quite impressive on Guillaume's menu, is that all the wines can be had by the glass, which I think is great, especially if you're in the mood to try a few things. I can't really remember what this bottle was like though...didn't really stay in my mind personally.
Some bread to start us off on our night, the butter was divine. I loved the shape of the bread, but found the crust to be a little tougher than I thought. Made you work!
As I was suffering from a cold and a blocked nose, I decided to start with an onion soup. This was fantastic, although I think it only just barely makes it into the soup category as it was so thick! I could barely get my spoon in the first time, as the bowl was absolutely stuffed with fine strips of onion! It was like eating an onion stew, which was beautifully seasoned and quite enriching. I tend to think that French onion soups tend to be a bit cheesy at times, but this one was not so. Simple, but rich flavours.
After that, between the 5 ladies that were at dinner, ordered a couple of mains and sides to share. Which may not sound like a lot, but believe me, it is!
After reading about it on I-Hua's review of Bisto Guillaume, we decided to make sure that the half a roasted chicken with Paris Mash and Chicken Jus was one of our mains. And what a treat it was, every inch of it was tender and juicy and again, it was absolutely seasoned to perfection. It was one of the star dishes of the night quite easily!
One thing mum was incredibly keen on trying, and specifically why we visited on a Friday night, was the bouillabaisse (for those not in the know, a lovely French seafood soup). It is one of the 'Plat du Jour' (Dish of the Day), they have one special for every day of the week and the bouillabaisse is only served on Friday.
I'm not entirely sure how much I personally like this. I found it a little too thick for my tastes and not as aromatic as I would have imagined it. I'm used to having slightly more watery bouillabaisse's which is just essentially, delicious and tasty fish stock. I'm not so fond of it when there's bread to give it some substance. It was thick enough to just plop on a plate and then scoop up with a spoon, no bowl really needed. I didn't find it looked overly enticing for me.
Although to be fair, if you were to have this as a dish on it's own, the thickened soup would be more filling, more substantial and satisfying a meal, and I'm sure back in the day, somewhere along the French coastline, this would have been a variant for poor fishermen who wanted a more solid meal as well.
We were also fortunate enough to be able to try the Plat du Jour from Thursday (although looking at the menu now, it looks like they've changed it), the duck cassoulet.
After being indulged by the ginormous cassoulet at the Provincial for the duckfest, seeing it in a much smaller form was a tiny bit sad. Just a tiny bit.
It was very tasty though, seasoned well, but not quite as rich as the one I had at the Provincial. Which I suppose is a good thing, more of the duck came through. Again, nice, but not absolutely stellar to me.
Sigh, dark food, dark lighting, I wish it looked better. The first of our sides was a ratatouille, served in a cute little red pot. This was exactly what you would want it to be, nice, filled with tomatoes and comforting.
The gratin dauphinois, was just delicious. Fortunately it was a nice small serve, perfect for serving up between the 5 of us, so that we all got a taste, but didn't feel it all go to our hips! Buttery, a bit creamy, with perfectly soft, but not mushy potatoes, I could have probably just ordered this for myself as a dish and been quite satisfied...
And then of course, to lighten everything up, some salad greens, which were dressed in a nice vinaigrette. I really found it to be quite refreshing and better than most salad greens which are just lazily plonked next to you with no effort.
The view at night outside is just gorgeous. I love Melbourne!
To finish up, I was insistent on desserts. And since there were a number of us...a number of desserts it was!
The tarte tartin with cinnamon ice-cream was just delightful. I don't vividly remember it, but I do recall we all enjoyed it and it was quite tasty.
I was honestly quite surprised to find that the lemon tart was possibly my favourite dessert of the night. Ordered at mum's suggestion, I loved the tanginess, it was so lemony and not too sugary. The crust was also really nice, quite short, with a nice biscuity element to it.
Mum commented that the serve on it's own might be a bit overwhelming, because it is so tangy, but if you do really like your lemon tarts...tarty, then this is the lemon tart you've been waiting for.
Lastly, was the creme brulee. Past the perfect glacial crack of the crystallized sugar, I was a little bit underwhelmed. The custard itself didn't feel quite right. It was a bit too soft in texture, and with not enough vanilla in it in my opinion. There were also berries in the custard which were a nice touch, but I didn't feel were necessary. Unfortunately not a favourite for me.
What definitely made up for it though, was the little caramel macaron that came with my lovely Mariage Frères peppermint tea. Caramel-y goodness. That's all you need to know!
I think sometimes people underestimate how good and easy it is to do family style at a western restaurant, you get to try more things and don't always feel like a glutton afterwards (I was still pretty full though).
I found the dishes a bit hit and miss, the plat du jour's were good, but not amazing for me, although we absolutely loved the roasted duck and had similar thoughts with the desserts.
Overall though it was an enjoyable night, despite being incredibly busy and turning some tables 2 times over throughout the duration of our dinner, we were attended to well and staff were friendly. And there were some French accents there too. Mmmhmmm.
I might come back, as the atmosphere was pleasant, the service was good and the food on a whole is enjoyable. You just have to know what to get. Maybe it would be better off to have dishes that are served everyday rather than the specials...
8 Whiteman St, Crown Entertainment ComplexMelbourne, 3006