Categories
Café French

Bitton Gourmet Cafe – Alexandria NSW Brunch Review

My partner took us to Bitton a couple of mornings (years now, by time of publication) ago. I had pre-peeked the menu and nothing struck my fancy, but the reviews were good and my partner was keen.

We arrived to an almost full house. There were 4 dogs in the cafe’s outside seating, but none inside. We didn’t have a booking but that wasn’t a problem on this Saturday morning – they were able to ready a table for us in minutes, however didn’t wipe it down.

The coffee at Bitton was good, but not a standout. We did enjoy these nice red mugs that it was served in, however.

The Croque Madame ($21) was a enormous letdown. I had wrongly assumed that $21 would afford me something greater than a mere ham and cheese toastie with egg on top. There are numerous places in the local area to get a croque madame for $12-14, and I truly regret paying this amount. For what it’s worth, the sandwich was fine and tasted good. The spicy tomato sauce and the side salad were also good, but it didn’t really justify the cost.

The Lamb Merguez Sausage (2 for $7) were actually quite coarse and complex. We enjoyed them and they added a much needed meatiness to the baked eggs and sweet potato hash.

My partner enjoyed the Baked Eggs and Sweet Potato Hash ($18) much more than I did. I generally don’t like hash, and this was no exception. The dish alone is vegetarian, and $7 was spent on some much needed sausages. I often find hash too bland in taste, and this was again true this time. They serve pepe saya butter with their bread.

I literally don’t know how much they charged for this Vanilla Slice, but I thought it was only ok. The vanilla slice itself was one of the better that I’ve had, though far from the best – a title which still belongs to Bourkies Bakehouse in Woodend, VIC. I did appreciate the vanilla ice cream and berries, which we weren’t expecting. The vanilla ice cream had black dots, an unmistakable sign of quality.

Overall I can’t recommend Bitton Cafe. We paid an exorbitant amount for food that was just fine. I’m particularly angry at myself for paying $21 for a toastie. I don’t care if it’s French. Never again, though I’m sure that I would have fonder feelings about the place had the prices not been so high.

Bitton Gourmet
36/37A Copeland St, Alexandria NSW 2015
(02) 9519 5111

Categories
Bakery French

Agathé Pâtisserie – South Melbourne VIC Restaurant Review

After waiting in line in the rain for 45 minutes outside Lune, I decided to better use what limited time I have on this Earth and eat somewhere else instead. Agathé Pâtisserie, at the South Melbourne Markets (at the time of writing only open Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday), is a French bakery at least equal to Lune, without the ridiculous social media hype and resultant line.

I really enjoyed this Pandan Croissant ($8). It was sweet, but not too sweet, with a pandan flavour that did not overpower. The pastry was as perfect as any croissant I’ve ever had, fluffy and pillowy on the inside with a good crunchy crust on the outside. Even the physical act of tearing this croissant apart in my hands was pleasurable, with crinkling of crust an almost ASMR like experience. This was instantly one of the best croissants I’ve ever had.

My partner chose this mushroom puff ($7), a savoury pastry of mushroom, onion, bechamel and thyme. It was not bad, again demonstrating good puff pastry qualities, but I did feel that the temperature was not right for what it was. The addition of a bit more heat to soften the toppings would’ve been ideal.

This peach perfect tart was in fact quite perfect. I don’t even know what the words “fresh peach and compote on a breton biscuit topped by lemon myrtle and vanilla chantilly” but I can tell you that it was delicious, and importantly not too sweet. It even came in a nice little cake box, which was wasted on us as we promptly sat down next to the store (in front of a guy selling roasted nuts, who gave us some free nuts to try) and scoffed it down. Yum.

So after we left Agathe and did half a round of the South Melbourne Markets I went back and got this Kougin-Amann ($7), a sweet and extremely buttery croissant-like cake that by tradition is 30% butter and 30% sugar. Delicious but perhaps still secondary to their croissants.

OVERALL: I really think that Agathe takes the cake when it comes to French patisserie in Melbourne. Lune diehards are welcome to wait in line for an hour in the pouring rain while cultured Agathé fans munch on a deliciously buttery croissant, Tuesday to Friday at their CBD store and Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the South Melbourne Markets.

Agathé Pâtisserie
South Melbourne Markets – 322 Coventry St, South Melbourne VIC 3205
0403 222 573

Categories
Bakery French

Lune Croissanterie – Fitzroy VIC Restaurant Review

I originally wrote the following two paragraphs as the opening to my review for Agathé Pâtisserie, in my opinion an at least equal French bakery, but on looking back I felt that the level of upset that I was at my attempt to go back to Lune in 2022 deserved its own post.

The first time I went to Lune in 2017 I enjoyed myself. I went to their warehouse in Fitzroy with my then-girlfriend now-fiancée, marvelled at the little pastries in glass cases, enjoyed the interior design of glass and concrete, waited a little bit and had my croissants. It was a nice and yummy time.

The pastries at Lune were the best I’d ever tasted at the time (2017), and as my tastes and experience developed over the next five years I was keen to go back and relive it their well-recognised croissants.

The second time I tried to go to Lune I lined up for 45 minutes in the rain outside their Melbourne CBD spot before I gave up. Not even the novelty of lining up in front of a guy with the same yellow Blunt umbrella as me could keep me going.

There was a lot of sunk-cost thinking involved, but ultimately I do not regret my decision. No croissant is worth that much time and to be completely honest, Agathé Pâtisserie in South Melbourne Markets is just as good, but without the wait.

Lune Croissanterie
119 Rose St, Fitzroy VIC 3065

Categories
Café French

The Hardware Société – Melbourne VIC Restaurant Review

I managed to avoid eating at Hardware Société in my six years as a Melbourne local, but as fate would have it broke my streak on a recent visit back.

This Twice Baked Cheese Souffle ($23) didn’t really live up to expectations, though not more so than any other menu item that we had at Hardware Société. What I would consider the focal components of this dish – the cheese souffle and poached eggs – were actually quite good. I enjoyed the cheesy taste and the airy but somehow still creamy and dense (is this an oxymoron?) texture of the souffle, as well as the perfect runniness of the masterfully poached eggs. What didn’t quite appeal to me was the multigrain bread doused in an oil, pickled grapes, and nuts that my partner thought tasted a bit stale, and the salad whose limited freshness I felt was inadequate to counter this.

Some restaurants excel on taste and presentation but fail on their portion sizes. Hardware Société does more or less the opposite with their gigantic Confit Free Range Chicken ($26.50), with a truly larger than normal chicken maryland, pulled from some monster of a bird. Though I was in awe of the size of this chook, I was not so inspired by the actual flavour of the meat, which I found to be bland despite the better-than-usual texture of both the meat and the crispy skin covering it. The herby potato salad was much enjoyed as are most potato dishes by my partner, though I felt that there was a lot of room for some additional heat to be added to the system. The swirl of green tangy sauce was perhaps the only thing I truly enjoyed on this plate.

This hot chocolate ($7.50), served deconstructed in classic Melbourne fashion, was quite good, if a bit sweet. Note the addition of a miniature Easter egg, as if it were a little apology for the 15% public holiday surcharge across the menu.

The soy latte ($5.30) was truly quite small, expensive, and unspectacular.

THOUGHTS
I had quite a few good and special meals on my recent trip to Melbourne, but my trip to Hardware Société wasn’t one of them. It’s possible that we simply chose the wrong items on their menu, but I don’t think I’d give them a second chance to find out.

The Hardware Société
10 Katherine Pl, Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9621 2100

Categories
French

Restaurant Hubert – Sydney NSW Restaurant Review

My partner and I recently became engaged, and Restaurant Hubert, with its 15% public holiday surcharge, was where we chose to eat afterwards. Prices as mentioned in this post are as-paid inclusive of this surcharge, but even without this surcharge it looks from other places on the internet that prices at Hubert have risen a healthy 30% over the last few years.

I’ve been trying to stay away from alcohol recently, but from the single sip that I had I can confirm that this Campari Grapefruit ($17.25) was pretty fresh tasting.

We started our night with roe boats ($17.25 each) – expensive little pastry tarts topped with trout roe, sea urchin, and avruga. I enjoyed the thin, dual layered pastry as well as the oceanic flavours, with the sea urchin being particularly noteworthy with its unusual funky fungi like flavour. It was like tasting three different parts of the sea. Just a shame that it didn’t last.

The Pâté en Croûte ($31.05), a dense buttery but cold pastry baked around a similarly dense pork terrine, was up next. We battled our way through the interesting and varied textures of this dish, with no idea as to which part of the animal any particular mouthful or mouthfeel came from. Ultimately whilst the pastry flavour was just right, we felt that the terrine was too salty, and that while the dill pickle was nice and sour, its use was limited when paired with something that was already so flavourful. This is one dish that we just didn’t finish, and I would recommend avoiding this if you’re only dining as a party of two. There’s more variety to be experienced than to be so invested in the incredibly dense plate.

This Prime Beef Tartare ($33.35), made from wagyu topside, was just so fresh. The seasonings, including the included capers and pickles, reminded me of a raw cheeseburger, but not in a bad way. The mini French fries, fun as they were, made the dish a little bit difficult to eat, and furthered this cheeseburger (or should I say royale with cheese) motif. Though some past online reviewers have heaped criticism on this tartare, either it’s improved greatly in the intervening time or I just don’t have as refined a palate. Either way, it’s a recommendation from me.

My partner is known to enjoy a good potato, and though I wasn’t nuts for the Pommes Anna ($18.40), she loved it. These potato towers, cut with slices through them to maximise exposure to oil in the deep frying process, were cooked deliciously crispy on the outside with an appropriate remnant of moisture and softness on the inside. They came bathed in a beurre blanc sauce, and honestly what non cardiovascular related wrong has ever come from the combination of potato and butter?

This was my first time eating snail, and though I had some mild initial apprehension towards Hubert’s Escargot XO ($33.50) they turned out to be a reasonably soft introduction. The snails were a bit smaller, shrivelled up and tougher than I had imagined, with not a lot of inherent flavour, rather taking on the rather pleasant (though not very spicy at all) XO sauce. The XO sauce was particularly good with the bread.

The baugette and butter came with our order of escargot, but can also be purchased separately for $8. It may be that this was the first time that I had had bread in some time, but I absolutely loved it. It was just so good. The crust to middle-bread ratio was optimal due to its size. The bread was dense near its crust but also inside. The butter was salty, dense, heavy, and just right. We both enjoyed eating the bread with the sauce from the pommes anna as well as the escargot’s XO sauce.

The Mille-Feuille ($32.20) was alright, but represented pretty poor value considering it was essentially the same price as the tartare or escargot and was a mere dessert.

OVERALL THOUGHTS
We had been meaning to eat at Hubert for some time, and our dinner did not disappoint. I did feel that overall the food was a little bit too salty for my taste (except for the bread), though this was more a problem for our waiter who had to be constantly back and forth with the water. Though some have complained, we had no problem with the 90 minute seating, as we were hungry enough to scoff down all of our dishes within the prescribed time limit. The presence of live jazzy music was definitely a point of difference, though I think the very fact that such a large and grand subterranean space could exist at all in the Sydney CBD, in a state of constant night, and with a single door as a point of ingress and egress is perhaps the most interesting part.

Would come back.

Restaurant Hubert
15 Bligh St, Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9232 0881