Some weeks (or months) ago now, I purchased a voucher for a new restaurant on Lygon St, Boutique Bistro Bar. Often the restaurants/cafes on Groupon are a bit mediocre but the menu at this little place looked tasty – not to mention it included 3 courses (anything on their standard menu) plus 2 glasses of French wine for $69 for 2.
Given our recent decision to go to Europe later this year, I’ve been quite looking forward to this dinner. I booked during December. I called outside of hours so left a message and received a call back the next day. The girl was a bit strange but informed me they were booked out until January which I wasn’t bothered by and accepted her suggested date.
We arrived at 5pm and had the place to ourselves for most of the meal. The little restaurant is adorable in a way that could only be described as an overdose on silver. We chose our seat by the window and began to review the menu. Admittedly, there are a lot of dishes that I would think of as Italian (involving pasta or gnocchi) but I am not expert on French food. The countries border each other right so surely the cuisines become blurred?
Anyhow, we traded our wines for Stella for Steve and the french owner brought us some bread as we placed our order. Shall we start there. The bread was delicious. It was like a dessert for a starter. Steve has already indicated he would have been happy to eat the bread for the whole meal. It reminded me of a brioche I’d had for brunch recently in that it was soft, fluffy and sweet. It was however more dense. The butter was soft and spreadable. I really want to use my butter knife on the restaurant staff when you are given straight out of the fridge butter that has only one purpose – to destroy your bread. We were happy with our bread and butter (oh… you really can tell there is not enough bread in our diet)…
Our entrees came quickly. Steve had opted for the Salt & Pepper Lamb Cutlets, Rocket and Shallots. Being a Kiwi – lamb seemed like the obvious choice. I would say it was finger licking good – because it was – but what amused me was watching Steve sit in a restaurant and chew on the left over bones in an attempt to stop the meal from finishing. He cannot remember eating nicer lamb in a restaurant, deciding that the bread roles were still brilliant but would be even better if a bowl of bread came side by side with a plate of lamb chops. We both agreed the rocket they sat on was really delicious. As they are just green leaves with a bit of sauce – I think it says a lot to even get a mention.
I would have also chosen the lamb but think it is a waste of money eating the same dish when I can just eat half of Steve’s so I opted for the Mushroom fusion and chicken crêpes, dill, crème fraîche. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t spectacular. I love my crepes and this didn’t quite hit the spot for me. The flavours made me think of a Turkish Kebab but refined to a delicate dish. I think had I paid $15 for this starter I would have been bordering towards unhappy, but not completely dissatisfied.
As Steve and I were discussing how he always ends up with the best dish, our hostess arrived with our mains and I was quick to rub in his face how unbelievably tasty my Duck à l’Orange – gnocchi, miso, honey, garlic, sesame, duck velouté was going to be. I was definitely eating with my eyes. Served in a stunning bowl with a huge rim, the orange stew looked unbelievable. I have never… never… tasted a flavour like it. A main but very sweet. When combined with a slither of the orange garnish, it was just perfect. If I was to criticise it at all, I was unable to finish the dish because the flavour was just too much. I had to stop 1/3 of the way in but I openly admit I am a bit sensitive to eating strong flavours without something plain to rest my taste buds. Steve happily ate the rest while I finished his. Would I order it again? ABSOLUTELY… with a side of that bread roll. I love trying new foods, but is not often you are faced with a genuinely new flavour. It really made this dish special.
Steve’s Rabbit à la cocotte, mushroom, root vegetables, crème fraîche while not as we expected and not as attention seeking as my gnocchi, was also delicious. We agreed the subtly in this little stew was much more on par with my taste but Steve enjoyed it nevertheless. He received a second bread roll with his for dunking which he refused to do on the basis of it would ruin an already delicious food (the bread roll that is). Our criticism – the bowl, whilst cool, was purple – it was a striking amount of colour amongst the silver and white of every other decoration in the dining room. Drawing at straws don’t you think!?
Then of course dessert. Shall I just say we were both very happy. Steve with his Sticky Date Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce and my Vanilla bean crème brûlée. I think no further description is required other than Steve undoing his belt post meal and saying “I think next time we will eat dessert first as it is wasted at the end”.
My wonderful sister-in-law is now required to review the menu and decide if she would like to explore a little bit of France when she visits in May so I can secure a ‘repeat customer’ deal offered by the hostess who was extremely friendly, happy and I am sure would have helped with explaining some of the menu items if we asked. She was not pushy at all and took the time to tell us a little about their family venture and the dishes which we specifically commented on (like the gnocchi which is homemade). I would have no hesitation when going again to ask her recommendations for dishes and let her order on our behalf. Her daughter answers the phone (but she told us don’t call, no one ever answers the phone(?)), her husband cooks the food and she waits the tables – it is a little family start up and while I can see the possibility of teething problems in a new restaurant – I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Boutique Bistro Bar.
Boutique Bistro Bar
122 Lygon Street
Carlton, VIC 3053