Melbourne's best French restaurants 2016

Last year we said that we were having a French moment as the city embraced a whole lot of new restaurants pushing steak and foie gras.

Well, we're having another moment.

In the annual marathon that is putting together The Age Good Food Guide you don't just notice the trends, you feel them. And this year we've felt a lot of terrines pummel our mid-section. But! A lot of new French also isn't what you expect – lighter, cleaner, sharper. It's old techniques re-imagined for a smarter world that's learnt the value of their blood pressure. 

Duck a l'orange at Petit Tracteur.
Duck a l'orange at Petit Tracteur. Photo: Josh Robenstone

But between them, there are still the classics that will never fall from this list, because damn it, France-Soir, we will always want a seat at your table, a shot at your cellar.

Bistro Guillaume

If you don't control the mash at Guillaume it'll take the Yarra in a buttery landslide. Sydney's HQ might be a hedge fund magnet, but here beneath pantaloon light fittings on Southbank it's all bistro: good service, wobbling souffles and crisp tarte tatins.

Riverside, Crown Complex, Southbank, 9292 4751, bistroguillaumemelbourne.com.au

Smoked trout waffles at Bon Ap'.

Smoked trout waffles at Bon Ap. Photo: Eddie Jim

Bon Ap

Advertisement

Holy waffles and smoked trout (and three kinds of croque-monsieur). This versatile cafe/bistro lays on the one-pot wonders such as coq au vin and bottles of plonk you can afford at night. It's your new mid-budget option by a sweet young crew on Brunswick Street.

193 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, 9415 9450, bonap.com.au

Entrecote South Yarra

The city space has an air of luxe grandeur to it, but South Yarra's Domain garden-facing terrace captures the whole necking-bottles-of-Mumm essence of the concept better. It's as much a social club as a steakhouse. Endless outfit watching. Bottomless frites. Can't lose.

131-133 Domain Road, South Yarra, 9804 5468; 6 Alfred Place, CBD, 9654 8184; entrecote.com.au

France-Soir

No-one questions France-Soir's status. Everyone who's anyone still comes to Toorak Road for the vintage of the room, the hospitality and '31 armagnacs, more so than they do for the classic tripe and steak. Having said that, steak au poivre forever.

11 Toorak Road, South Yarra, 9866 8569, france-soir.com.au

French Saloon

At first it was all about the stunning Hardware Lane loft space – all big windows, zinc bar and geranium-lined terrace – but the house-made duck ham and foie gras parfaits, hot blinis and cool salmon tartare just keep getting better. Add natural and classic wines for the win.

Upstairs, 380-384 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne, 9600 2142, frenchsaloon.com

Noir

It's the neighbourhood restaurant with big aspirations where your tartare comes in a tower of crisp apple slices and everything is tweezed. The dark room makes a strong backdrop for the pretty French food chef Peter Roddy carries off well.

175 Swan Street, Richmond, 9428 3585, noirrestaurant.com.au

Oter

You still get yakitori in this basement that once was Yu-u. But today it's a concertina of rabbit belly served with a riff on Jacques Pepin's blanquette. It's contemporary French and perfect tarts in a stunning bunker with crazy exciting (expensive) wines to match.

137 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, 9639 7073, oter.com.au

The best chocolate tart along the Mornington Peninsual.

The best chocolate tart along the Mornington Peninsula. Photo: Josh Robenstone

Petit Tracteur

We love Ten Minutes by Tractor's casual offshoot. The room is bright, the booze is local and you can still play petanque while waiting for your classic nicoise and duck a l'orange brightened for modern palates. Nowhere does a better chocolate tart on the peninsula.

1208 Mornington-Flinders Road, Main Ridge, 5989 2510, petittracteur.com.au

Philippe's

Philippe Mouchel has been schooling Melbourne on classic French for decades – why change? In the old Brooks site, his chefs wear hats, his pâté en croute is perfect and dessert is a chocolate fondant flooding cherries onto plates.

Basement, 115-117 Collins Street, Melbourne, 9001 8755, philipperestaurant.com.au

Shifty Chevre

There's nothing Frencher – or better – you could do than hit this cheese-centric cafe at night for an entire dairy dinner of foot-ripe raclette, grilled and scraped over potatoes, or a whole baked camembert. Bon chance, digestive system!

375 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, 0423 694 763, shiftychevre.com

The Age Good Food Guide 2017 will be available for purchase for $24.99 (with free access to the new Good Food app) from all newsagents and major bookstores from Tuesday, September 13 2016. Or pick up your Age Good Food Guide 2017 for $14.99 with The Age on Saturday, September 17.