224 Given Terrace, Paddington, QLD

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Conal Hanna

In Seinfeld, they called it “hand”; the notion of power in a relationship. Find yourself watching Oprah’s finale instead of Origin, lads? It’s likely the hand is hers. Your man missing your sister’s engagement party to head out on a boys' night? Girl, you’re definitely sans-hand.

There can be no question who has the hand in the relationship between Montrachet proprietor Thierry Galichet and Brisbane diners. After all, how many top tier restaurants can retain the affections of both critics and the public while remaining closed all weekend?

And if the decision to shut up shop after lunch Friday until midday Monday smacks of arrogance and a dogmatic devotion to work-life balance, well, what could be more French than that?

Certainly Montrachet’s reputation precedes it, with bookings generally necessary a couple of weeks in advance. When we arrive at 1pm on a Friday, ours is the only table left vacant, indoors and out, with no room to be found at the bar either.

It may be self-assured, but Montrachet is certainly not snooty in the manner of some French restaurants. Bright red seats, a display case of old wine labels, even an old policeman’s kepi on the hat rack create a playful sense of kitsch, while managing to stop short of descending into the realm of cliché.

It’s a vibe that’s clearly infectious. Put it down to its location away from the CBD or perhaps the fact we’re here ahead of a long weekend, but it seems everyone’s at lunch today for the same thing: a rollicking good time.

It helps when you start with French bubbles, selected from a weighty wine list skewed towards the Burgundy region from which the restaurant takes its name.

More uplifting than the Champagne, though, is the crab and gruyere soufflé, an entrée so silkily sumptuous it derives audible groans from both sides of our table.

Soon we’re getting more comfortable in our chairs, knocking the top off a bottle of Volnay and sharing a laugh with the people seated – rather closely – beside us.

A main of bouillabaise is très traditional, the quality of the stock setting it apart from those wanna-be chefs who rely on the quantity of seafood alone. Served alongside fresh baguette and a moreish rouille, I’m soon slurping merrily away.  

Meanwhile, my partner’s bragging about her crispy-skinned duck, while the tide in the red wine bottle continues to recede.

Around 3pm, a glance around the place confirms the vast majority of seats are still taken, with some diners swapping their wine glasses for those of the cocktail variety.

Well, why stop now?

Best order some cheese, and how could we go past the one described as “farmyardy”? The Touree de l’Aubier lives up to its reputation, full and flavoursome and thoroughly delicious.

What’s that? No more red? Well, a glass of dessert wine couldn’t hurt. Oh, and if today hasn’t been decadent enough already, maybe a dark chocolate tart with cognac ganache, a dessert so wicked it should come with an “adults only” label. 

By the time we order coffees and stumble out to a cab, it’s nearly 4 o’clock and still the restaurant is half full.

No wonder they need their weekends off.

Long live the decadent lunch. Viva la France.

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224 Given Terrace, Paddington, QLD

  • Cuisine - French
  • Prices - Entrees $19-$32, Mains $38-$42; Dessert $10
  • Owners - Thierry Galichet
  • Opening Hours - Lunch Monday-Friday; Dinner Monday-Thursday
  • Author - Conal Hanna
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