142-144 Greville St Prahran, VIC 3181
|Opening hours||Mon-Thu 11.45am-midnight; Fri-Sat 8am-midnight, Sun 8am-11pm.|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Phone||03 9804 5468|
Bust out your Gucci slides and saddle up your miniature poodle. Entrecote, the Parisienne house of French fizz and steak frites, has moved to Greville Street and it's bigger, blousier and more fabulous than ever.
It feels appropriate that restaurateur Jason M. Jones and partner-in-life Brahman Perera have taken over what used to be Greville Street's notorious night spot, Fog.
Southside socialites, who in all likelihood met here in their youth, are now possibly sitting in opposing velvet nooks, ordering caviar bumps on each other's soon-to-be-cancelled credit cards. It's pretty to think so, anyway. And it's not hard to.
Entrecote has always felt like a beautiful, bountiful land of make-believe. A place where your frothy French fantasies can come true.
The inspiration, when it opened seven years ago on Domain Road, was Paris icon Le Relais de l'Entrecote, a restaurant with a single dish (steak frites and walnut salad) backed by belting wines and good times. You could (and still can) see the concept's appeal: a simple menu, an exceptional space, a wine list to lubricate it all.
Transported to fickle Melbourne, it could have been a flash in the pan. That it wasn't is testament to the fact that Perera and Jones genuinely love everything their loyal diners do about the restaurant: the champagne, the gossip, the menu that's so classically French it reads like Julia Childs' memoir. They don't just love it, they live it. Whether you realise it or not, that buy-in makes a world of difference.
So, exit Domain Road, enter Greville Street. I arrive on day one and it's already a scene. Fabulous fantasy has been brought to life in a blur of billowy curtains, shimmering cabinets, vivid velvets and pretty wicker.
The tableaux on the street, all checked wicker, fresh linen and posh dogs, is so flawless it almost looks staged.
Inside, the royal blue and golden banquettes are properly plump. Antiques and custom artworks make it feel personal. The purple private dining salon looks like Prince's wardrobe was unpicked and stretched across a room (in the best way possible).
It's ostentatious, outlandish and perfect. There's a sense of investment, both in the space and the people this team wants to come here. Even in the middle of a sunny lunch service, Jones is lighting candles to lift the vibe.
And the piano near the courtyard is no prop. A resident jazz pianist will play on weekend evenings. It's also a callback to Jones' own past tickling the keys at a country manor, where he learned how to show people a good time.
Those good times are being had. It feels unavoidable to start with a peachy spritz charged with yellow Chartreuse, bitters and Mumm, or champagne by the glass. Go this route, and you'll want to add pristine crudite of witlof and firm little radishes with a caramelised French onion dip that has a sweet, smoky edge.
That said, once you see the caviar trolley, it's hard to pass up luxury eggs. Using a tiny pearl spoon, intensely rich Polanco sturgeon caviar is heaped onto the back of your fist. Let it warm for maximum flavour, chase with syrupy vodka (poured from an ice-entombed bottle) and learn what it feels like to be an oligarch. Not bad for $29.
A little housekeeping here. The patio and courtyard are yours for drinks, Entrecote's double-decker cheeseburger and snacks, but the dining rooms require a buy-in of two or three courses. It's a broader carte than the original days, but sticking fastidiously to the classics. From terrines and buttery escargot, to hot goat's cheese salads and tarte au citron, you can tick every box in bistro bingo.
Some new dishes are going straight to the pool room. Plump king prawns, brightly braced by a gazpacho-like tomato-jalapeno liquor and a surprise sweet crunch of melon, are perfectly poached to velvety softness. Or there's the minty, zippy spring salad of broad beans, sugar snaps and hazelnuts tumbled over rough-torn burrata. It's as sun-friendly as the courtyard's striped sails.
It's not all smooth sailing. Our rock lobster is overcooked, but its choron sauce (tomato-spiked bearnaise) is an excellent buttery-sweet foil for the paprika-dusted fries. Profiteroles with milky ice-cream aren't a patch on the textbook lemon tart either (that buttery crust and sharp curd countered by sour cream is a winner every time).
And yet, it's hard to care. It's rare, but sometimes a venue comes along where ambience trumps all. Where the space is so magical, and the energy so infectious, food (however good or bad) plays second fiddle. I liked eating at the new Entrecote. But I loved being there.
Bring on the music. Bring on the summer. Vive le vin and the good times.
Drinks Lillet, Dubonnet, French fizz and good cocktails.
Pro tip Come for the jazz at weekends.