Victoria's head over heels for all things French: just look at the creme brulees, confit duck, caviar and platters of fruits de mer splashed across restaurant menus. New venues channel traditional service and classic dishes big on comfort, while old faithfuls are busier than ever.
Here are 10 spots that cover any French cravings, from your morning cafe au lait through to digestif, at a range of prices. On y va!
CAFES, BAKERIES & PATISSERIES
More than a decade on and with a second location under its belt, this destination cafe is still steadfast in its mission to bring a little indulgence to a tried and true format in Melbourne. Goodness bowls are given the flick here, replaced by twice-baked souffles. The Katherine Place cafe has a slightly larger menu but signatures, such as lobster Benedict and slabs of fried brioche with fruit and caramel, are available at both. The careful eye of owners Di and Will Keser mean interiors are perfectly charming, and your Market Lane coffee or French 75 cocktail will be just right.
10 Katherine Place, Melbourne; 123 Hardware Street, Melbourne, hardwaresociete.com
The luxurious lobster Benedict at Hardware Societe. Photo: Eddie Jim
Q Le Baker
Flaky almond croissants, buttery escargots that crackle when pulled apart, rustic galettes with sweet and savoury fillings: Q Le Baker is a pastry lover's dream. Established by Frenchman Quentin Berthnneau (now departed) and former Baker D. Chirico manager Marion David, the bakery team's craft is showcased via two large windows that look into the kitchen. Look for the queue in the courtyard of Prahran Market and get in line as you ponder whether today is a fougasse or sausage roll day.
Stall 709, Prahran Market, 163 Commercial Road, South Yarra, qlebaker.com.au
Chewy baguettes and other delights in the window at Q le Baker in Prahran, Photo: Christine Francis
Le Peche Gourmand
Precision piping and exacting layers define the pretty little cakes on offer at this surprise gem in a small regional town. But it's not all gateau Opera and Paris-Brest. The team also faithfully bake chewy baguettes and sourdough each day, filled with roast chicken, perhaps, or cured meats from nearby Salt Kitchen Charcuterie. Pick up a couple, along with your cakes, danishes or kouign-amann, and call it a balanced meal.
73 Albert Street, Creswick, lepechegourmand.com.au
Public Wine Shop
This petite heritage shopfront in Fitzroy North is the closest thing in Melbourne to a cave a manger: a Parisian style of wine bar that sells wine but also offers small plates to those sticking around for a glass. Public Wine Shop lets you drink without eating, but the selection of wine by importer Campbell Burton and his team is all the better with something from the brief but enticing menu from Ali Currey-Voumard. Nab one of the dozen or so seats around the communal table or at the window and watch the world go by. But if you can't? You're guaranteed to find something delicious to take home from the shelves that cover the walls.
79 St Georges Road, Fitzroy North, publicwineshop.com.au
Public Wine Shop and it's wall of wonderful wine in Fitzroy North. Photo: Eddie Jim
More bistronomie than bone-sticking fare, dishes at this contemporary bistro might include two-bite eclairs of ocean trout and goat's curd, mushroom vol au vent or crisp-skin barramundi with baby peas and lemon. Geelong restaurateurs Kate and Nathan Veach are behind Plume, and put a strong emphasis on using Bellarine and Surf Coast produce. The room features exposed brick and other rustic touches, with splashes of turquoise adding a contemporary note.
56a Mount Pleasant Road, Belmont, bistrotplume.com.au
Terrine with cornichons at Bistrot Plume in Geelong. Photo: Supplied
Familiar favourites are served in a room with smart updates on the hallmarks of a French bistro, creating something fresh for Daylesford. Pull up a bentwood under the soaring dark ceilings and ready yourself for choices between French onion soup and parsley-gruyere caneles, mushroom Pithiviers and the Provencale fish stew, bourride. The menu changes often, in step with what's grown locally, but that's just more reason to come back.
6-8 Howe Street, Daylesford, bistroterroir.com.au
The classic yet contemporary Bistro Terroir in Daylesford Photo: Supplied
Would you like your confit duck with a side of deliciously good people-watching? Type France-Soir into the map and let owner Jean-Paul Prunetti and his team take care of the rest. Satisfying Melbourne's brasserie cravings for an incredible 30-plus years, the white-clothed tables are jammed in tight, the menu is the same as it ever was and the atmosphere is always fabulous, darling. What are you waiting for?
11 Toorak Road, South Yarra, france-soir.com.au
France-Soir French restaurant in South Yarra. Photo: Eddie Jim
Creme caramel. Steak tartare. Gougeres with chicken liver parfait. This all-day venue is only loosely French, but the dishes that it's cherry-picked for its menu are bound to bring a smile to your dial. Take a crab omelette for a spin at breakfast, or swing past at lunch for a cheeseburger pimped with raclette. Dinner might be duck frites or John dory with beurre blanc; don't pass up a glass of Pol Roger while you're there.
Ground Floor, 270 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, her.melbourne
Don't miss the duck frites at Her Bar in the city. Photo: Parker Blain
Smith Street Bistrot
You might feel like you've stumbled on to the set of Emily in Paris at this new venue from chef Scott Pickett. His latest incarnation of this gorgeous 1888 Collingwood building (used previously for Saint Crispin and then Lupo) is a love letter to the bistro. The menu reads accordingly, from steak au poivre to chicken fricassee and pommes Anna. Yes, you'll find classics galore but read between the lines and you're in for a few (welcome) surprises that bring this bistro into the 21st century.
300 Smith Street, Collingwood, smithstbistrot.com.au
Like something from a movie, it's Smith Street Bistrot in Collingwood. Photo: Chris Hopkins