We didn’t actually have this meal in Melbourne, but rather a food stall by the Frencheese people at a very small Christmas market in Sydney.
We had, among other things that day, this raclette traditional ($17) with melted raclette cheese poured on butter sautéed potatoes, rosemary and thyme, shaved pastrami and ham with some mixed lettuce, vinaigrette, and baby gherkins. The odour and umami taste of this mixture was just incredible, with such a strong cheesiness and creaminess from the mixture of cheese, meats, and potatoes. It was a taste I’d never had before, and I’m glad I got to try it before the heaviness of it all put me in the ground.
Frencheese Grazeland Melbourne, 20 Booker St, Spotswood VIC 3015 (Permanent stall) Multiple stalls around the place. Check soicals.
Legend has it that if you go to enough random market stalls across the city of Sydney, you can hit a large number of Grazeland stalls without ever leaving the 2000s.
Eaten simultaneously with our raclette from Frencheese was our meal from Oceania, trading as Orleans Moules-Frites for the day.
We had these great coquille St Jacques grilled scallops ($18 for 3), cooked to order under searzall, which such a creamy and umami cheese sauce with wine and parsley that left us wanting another and another.
I was less fond of the mussels in the classic mussels & chips ($22) because it turns out I don’t actually love mussels, but the freshly fried chips in their creamy wine sauce was actually excellent.
A recent timetabling kerfuffle gave us the opportunity to have a double date dinner at one of Berry’s nicest restaurants with my housemate and colleague DTC and our respective fiancees. The choice was between Queen St Eatery and neighbouring South on Albany, both recipients of quite positive reviews online, but only Queen St Eatery not confining the four of us to each eat exactly the same thing. Our $95 per person instead brought us a rather nice assortment of French fare.
The house made olive oil brioche with cultured butter was solid. Buttery. Soft. A hint of sweetness. Love a good bread. You just can’t go wrong with brioche.
The steak tartare with oyster mayonnaise & pomme gaufrettes was also quite good. Good flavouring and good good texture to the meat. The potato crisps were of course useless as a vessel for the meat, but I understand that’s not mandatory.
This chicken, pork & pistachio pate en croute was a nightly special entrée and the more interesting of the remaining entrée choices. A good mix of flavours and textures, though I’m not 100% sold on the texture of the shortcrust.
This snapper meuniére (baby snapper fillet with brown butter & caper sauce) was seriously amazing. So tender and full of flavour. Loved the brightness of the capers (and their abundance) and the richness of the brown butter sauce. One of the best pieces of fish I’ve had in the last two years. Really very good and shouldn’t be missed.
The steak frites (tenderloin steak with cafe de Paris butter and frites allumettes) was good, tender and flavourful, but surprisingly the lesser of the two standard menu item mains. Ideally if you have at least one friend you will get to have both.
But what about the duck frites with duck a l’orange sauce & watercress? Another seasonal special of the mains menu, we chose not to order this because our general duck a l’orange experience has been poor to date. Luckily DTC did order this, because we got to each have a bite and it was very good. Probably better than the steak, but it’s up to you if you want to fully forgo red meat in your sides, or if you’re someone who needs it to feel like a complete and satisfied human being and diner.
The banana tarte tatin with local vanilla gelato, was nice and warm and crispy yet buttery in the pastry with the melted on effect of vanilla gelato like a much-improved ice cream on waffles. Great. Not too sweet.
The blood orange crème caramel was of a similar style to the duck frites, but more forward with sweetness, with a dense and rich block of creme caramel. It was a bit sweeter, and probably the lesser of the two quite good desserts.
COMMENTS It’s rare that you have a meal where every dish is banger after banger. This was one of those times. It was lovely, and I’m glad we went. One of the best Shoalhaven has to offer.
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.
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