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Thursday, March 27, 2008
Bistro Guillaume (Crown, Southbank)
Finally!!! Its been a long wait for Melbourne food lovers, but the much hyped Bistro Guilaume opened its doors to the Melbourne dining public this Tuesday. I have been waiting eagerly for the restaurant to open and with much anticipation booked myself in early, for dinner on Thursday night. I can gladly report that the experience was a good one, though as its name suggests it is high quality bistro food, much like Bistro Vue, in contrast to the three hat food that Brahimi serves up at his signature Sydney restaurant. Prices are fairly expensive though, particularly the desserts, but I guess this is to be expected with someone like Philippa Sibley (ex-Circa) taking the reigns as pastry chef.

Bistro Guillaume is located riverside at Crown, neighbouring Rockpool. It occupies the space which was formerly Prada, and its fit out (costing a whopping $10 million) is about style and opulence. The entry point is simple, but classy; a small sign on the exterior pointing to what lies inside.

Service is strong from the moment you arrive with a door attendant welcoming you and the friendly staff showing you to your seat. I am seated at the rear of the restaurant, along a wall, which has the disadvantage of being uncomfortable as your arm leans against it. I think banquette seating along the walls would possibly have been a better choice. The room is decorated nicely with a French bistro theme throughout. Padded chairs (worth a grand each), fluffy light fittings and lots of cream colours and wood finishes throughout. Tables are also dreseed with thick patterned white linen and set with quality sant andrea cuttlery, laguiole steak knives and good stemware. Great sums of money have been invested throughout. As well as the restaurant proper there is also a bar down stairs, which I cannot comment on as I did not enter.

Things start off with bread; a crusty baguette slice, which is served without any butter or oil, until it is later requested. My waitress is keen to tell me about many of the dishes on the menu including the plats du jour, which I consequently order and is always friendly and eager to try and help. Most of the staff seem fairly enthusiastic though some lack finesse. The gentleman taking my dessert order seemed to lack any knowledge. Tell me about the tarts - well one is raspberry and the other is peach. I could tell you that the raspberry tart is an individual, round frangipane tart, encased in a perfect shortcrust pastry topped with fresh raspberries and sided by a quinelle of house made pistachio ice-cream. Surely that sought of a description is not too difficult. Most of the others I encountered were more knowledgeable however, though something I witnessed did disturb me greatly. The maitre'd screaming at a young waitress: "what the hell are you doing, put that back right now" as she had removed both table cloths when resetting a table. Surely this could have been done much more discreetly with an offer to assist, rather than yelling at her and storming off. Enough said about these matters though, here is my summary of the food.

terrine du jour - rabbit ($22): An excellent terrine, constructed with confit rabbit meat, stock and tarragon, a dominant ingredient in the food here. The terrine is sided by an excellent spiced plum chutney, a herb salad and some toasted croutons. A very good starter, the sweetness of the chutney melding perfectly with the rabbit. The seasoning throughout is spot-on.

Roasted Flinders Island Lamb - Thursday's plat du jour ($38): Chef buys the whole lamb I am told - the leg is used for another dish and the remaining meat (chefs choice), is used to create this excellent dish. Here we have perfectly roasted lamb loin cooked to medium rare alongside slow roasted shoulder mear, which is cooked to tender perfection. The accompaniments are a tombe of sauteed olives, garlic, cherry tomatoes and green beans. All perfect flavours, the plate finished with an exceptional, light veal and tarragon jus. I really enjoyed this dish, and once again the seasoning was just right.

Gratin Dauphinois ($8): A good, creamy potato gratin. Just one of the available sides.

Seasonal tart - raspberry ($22): A very good tart with a perfect shortcrust shell, filled with a light frangipane filling (an almond cream mix) and finished with fresh raspberries. It is sided by a quinelle of very good pistachio ice cream and is an enjoyable, albeit fairly expensive end to the meal. I mention this mainly because other restaurants in this class, eg. Bistro Vue can offer excellent desserts of a similar quality for around $12.

Extras at Bistro Guillaume are expensive - Sparkling water (Santa Vittoria) is $10 for a 750ml bottle and coffee is $5 without petit fours - ouch!

MY RATING: 16.5/20 - Food 8.5/10 Service 4/5 Ambience 4/5

Bistro Guillaume is a welcome addition to the Melbourne dining scene. I look forward to tracking its progress in the near future. Highly Recommended!

Now I just have to try out Melbourne's other hot new restaurant, also at Crown: Guiseppe Arnaldo and sons. Hopefully next week.


Labels: ,

  posted at 11:42 PM  

At March 28, 2008 at 1:53 PM, Blogger Ed Charles said...

Gosh, I'm surprised you don't rate it higher. Still have to get my full review up.

At March 28, 2008 at 10:38 PM, Blogger Jon! said...

You are right. It should be about 16.5 - this was initially written very late after a few drinks.

Gripes: Service was good, though bread was served without butter or oil and this had to be requested well after. The maitre'd yelled at a young girl "What the hell do you think you are doing, put that back right now" when she was changing table cloths - a nicer comment and some assistance would have possibly been nice. A bit of a dampener to witness this.

The room is well set out, my main problem was the seating against solid timber board walls - uncomfortable.

At April 5, 2008 at 7:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't like the answers you received re: the desserts? How about this for an idea (since you are such a "highly regarded" foodie) - ask your waitress & dont ask the food runner. That's what they're employed for & know for a fact that all section waiters have adequate menu knowledge.

Dont like your table? Request a change of seating as soon as you arrive. Since you allegedly dine out so frequently, surely you're aware that a restaurant such as this, will do their utmost to accommodate your request.

- Bistro employee

At April 5, 2008 at 11:16 PM, Blogger Jon! said...

Thats a rather stern comment anon Bistro employee. Nowhere do I claim to be a highly regarded foodie - this is just a humble little blog and I am merely stating my observations, which are probably more informed than many others.

I asked the person who asked to take my order about the desserts, and DID consequently get more information. My comments reflect the fact that service as a whole was very strong. I didn't greatly dislike my table, but through the evening I did find the hard wall uncomfortable, something which I would bring up in the future when being seated. I think this blog is a testament as to how much I eat out and the calibre of places I eat at, and I don't write up a lot of the places I do eat at, not that I need to justify myself to you.

Overall I loved the meal and experience and am looking forward to returning very soon - this piece should be seen as a positive for the restaurant, with a couple of pieces of constructive criticism. They were my observations and I stand by them. I would be most interested in speaking further with you when I next visit Bistro Guillaume.

At April 6, 2008 at 10:39 AM, Blogger Ed Charles said...

It's very easy to snipe when you are anonymous and you'd have more cred if we knew who you were. But assumingyou work at Bistro Guillaume I don't blame you. But don't blame the customer for how your service works. It is about the customer and not you. Saying that a bad table will always be a bad table and I was lucky to have a good one. And also any service grumbles should be tempered with the fact that it was second night and perhaps the runners should know how to handle these situations. Jon, I found the alegedly bizarre too.

At April 6, 2008 at 8:50 PM, Blogger Jon! said...

Thanks for your back up Ed.

They were minor things, which didn't bother me too much and saw it as a very positive review. I agree its to be expected that there will be minor service grumbles when a place has just opened (though I did want to mention them as observations) and overall the service was really good. Hence I plan on returning next week (even more so after the anon comment) and enjoying another great meal, with a follow up review.

At April 7, 2008 at 2:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ed - why would i have more "cred" if you knew whom i was? Cos then you could write a letter to management stating your discontent with me? And this coming from a guy who has a profile, with no name, contact info or a pic! Hmmm... so whom are you exactly??

Jon - i am glad you are re-visiting; i am sure you will find that standards have improved since your initial visit, however one cannot guarantee that the attitude of the maitre'd will have changed. Sorry for this. Unfortunately a zebra cannot change their stripes & some sydney people think they are very special indeed.

Hope you enjoy your next visit. Should i see you i'll surely come and say hi.

At April 7, 2008 at 2:28 PM, Blogger Ed Charles said...

Anon, I guess I don't blame you if you work there and I certainly wouldn't write a letter to management and only reserve that kind of thing for banks. I'm interested in debateand I've been having some comment biffo on my blog with some anonymous commenters who were slagging of a restaurant. I accidently usd a different gmail address but you can easily find out who I am by clicking on my website. I'll update it. Cheers

At April 11, 2008 at 2:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Jon
Tx for your review. Gotta say I'm less impressed than you were. The bread, incidently, is not made in house.
If you want to be picky there is plenty of room for improvement and even anonymous should appreciate that.
I'll have my review up in a day or two.

At April 14, 2008 at 2:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

elliot - once posted can you advise website where i can read your review? Thanks...

At April 14, 2008 at 3:04 PM, Blogger Jon! said...

Elliots review is posted. Please see: http://1001dinners.blogspot.com/

At April 30, 2008 at 11:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The wine mark ups here are scandalous, i urge everyone to boycott a restaurant which charges 3 times a reasonable bottle shop price. makes rockpool look to cheap.

At May 18, 2008 at 5:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The place is a fraud and a rip-off. They should call it Bistro Tourist Trap and be done with it. Bland interior (does anyone really believe the 10 million Crown-sourced hype spent on the interior?), dull and outrageously over-priced wine list, restaurant prices for food which is admittedly restaurant-quality (though not as good as the Brasserie), and, as you rightly point out, the prices of the desserts, water and coffee rather giving the game away in terms of the ultimate purpose of the place: like I said, tourist-trap, hoping to snare one-off visitors, and unlikely to get repeat business from Melbournians. I guess we'll see whether that model survives.

At May 19, 2008 at 2:36 PM, Blogger Jon! said...

EXPENSIVE, definitely but quality is there. I get the understated elegance of the dining room but I agree its hard to see the $10M. I love the ambience of the bar downstairs though and I think a lot of money has also been spent there. Wine and extras are uber expensive and will be interesting to see how it goes - a good venue in my opinion nonethless.


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