In honour of Bastille Day and the birth of modern France, we've rounded up ten of the best French Restaurants in Melbourne to get you waving your Tricolour with gay Paris abandon.
FRANCE-SOIR | SOUTH YARRA
Without a shadow of a doubt the best French restaurant in Melbourne, France-Soir is a stalwart of the city's Gallic cuisine scene. Don't be fooled by the unassuming façade with its neon sign, Parisian chic takes over once you step inside this 20-year plus icon on South Yarra's Toorak Road, with its linen tables, brass-edged bar and mirrored walls and actual French waiters. A great place for a first date, it's also one of the city's surest spots for a late-night feed.
Oysters are always on the go, and chef Geraud Fabre does the best béarnaise in town, so going simple with the entrecôte (scotch fillet), steak frites and salade is always a winner, as is the half roast duck with orange sauce, and we don't mean that in an ironic 80s way. The veal sausages swimming in mustard are spot on and you simply cannot leave without a devilish serving of their divine crème brûlée.
BISTRO GITAN | SOUTH YARRA
Bistro Gitan, run by the scions of Jacques Reymond, is a gorgeous little French restaurant complete with lacework-adorned balcony on Toorak Road West, facing Fawkner Park. With a classic library-like feel inside and an open fireplace, Bistro Gitan offers French food infused with the fiery influence of gypsy blood, with a dash of Spanish spirit for good measure.
A pleasingly long list of wines by the glass accompanies a menu featuring the likes of Tasmanian bush pepperberries liver parfait, or a croque monsieur with gypsy ham, cheese and smoked morteau sausage to get you started. The la pôuchouse follows the family's traditional recipe, with oven-baked hapuka, mushrooms, bacon, sweet onions and sorrel. You have to finish with the mousse au chocolate.
BISTRO THIERRY | TOORAK
Malvern Road's Bistro Thierry is another highlight on Melbourne's French food parade, drawing just as much from Lyonnais tradition as it does Parisian. The classic black and white awning outside is a dead giveaway, but that doesn't mean that chef Frederic Naud is a slave to tradition, with a fair few contemporary flourishes up his sleeve.
If you're feeling indulgent, the foie gras is the perfect start to your evening, with a hearty boeuf à la bourguignonne hard to go past. The veal tournedos with foie gras, Macaire potatoes and cèpe mushroom sauce is also yum. You must try the escargot, while experimental specials might include the likes of crumbed soft shell crab with celeriac and pear remoulade. There are over 20 wines by the glass, which we cannot rate highly enough.
CHEZ OLIVIER | PRAHRAN
A huge arched window sits above the Tricolour-adorned glass frontage of Greville Street French restaurant, Chez Olivier. It's as classy as it is dinky inside, with their mission statement to use the best of Australian produce to create the perfect Aussie-French marriage.
If you fancy a light lunch, you can't go past their take on a Salade Nicoise or perhaps the charcuterie board. If you want something a bit bigger, the coq au vin is a much-loved classic, as is the cassoulet, a traditional Toulouse champion packed full of beans, pork, lamb and duck. Go all out and have the champagne oysters, or pop along on Wednesdays for their Duck & Pinot night, where a main course of succulent duck is paired with green beans or salad, dessert and a glass of Snobs Creek Show Pinot Noir Reserve for $50.
BISTROT D'ORSAY | MELBOURNE CBD
Another of the best French restaurants in Melbourne, Bistrot d'Orsay can be found opposite the Regent Theatre. Perching on the red leather banquettes below the beautiful trompe l'oeil ceiling of Bistrot d'Orsay is enough to transport you a million miles away to one of Paris' most chic enclaves, with dark wood-panelled walls playing host to wine racks and a bright yellow Parapluie-Revel framed poster print. It's a gorgeous escape from it all, that's served top-notch bistro classics to the city for almost 20 years now.
Head chef Quinn Spencer sources quality produce locally; the eye fillet and beef cheek hail form the Goulburn Valley, the goat from Central Victoria's Tallarook and Berkshire pork from Tooborac, and sommelier Charles Harper matches the fine fare with a quality wine selection too. If you still have room for desert, do not miss their fabled pistachio and white chocolate parfait. Parfection.
THE FRENCH BRASSERIE | MELBOURNE CBD
Tucked down Malthouse Lane, The French Brasserie is another great option for fine French food in the city, with a magnificent contemporary gallery-like space, all pale wood floors, towering glass walls, studded leather banquettes and wine bottles hung almost like artworks. A vibrant space, particularly when catering for the boozy lunch or post-work crowd, we love The French Brasserie's abundant style and black and white attired waiters.
They do a fantastic roasted lamb rack and a mouth-watering rainbow trout with scallop and pistachio mousse, the latter designed to be shared by two, or if you're looking for something vegetarian, and let's face it, the French aren't famed for it, we recommend the potato terrine with mushroom and truffle emulsion. If you just can't pick, go easy on yourself and let them dish up the five-course degustation for $95, with wine an extra fifty bucks.
MR MASON | MELBOURNE CBD
While the official address says Collins Street, you actually enter this French gem in the heart of the city via Little Collins' laneway, as with all the best places in Melbourne's CBD. A seamless blend of contemporary chic and traditional warmth, Mr Mason combines dark wood floors and stone-clad walls and sleek white linen with funky pendant lights and a modern spin on the old fireplace.
Mr Mason's head chef Thiago Miranda's menu is always on the move, but a few classics remain week after week. Expect yummy classis like duck liver parfait or beef tartare, with mains featuring French takes on steak, duck, pork belly and barramundi. The wine list is stacked with quite a few Frenchies in amongst the Aussie offerings, too.
BISTRO GUILLAUME | SOUTHBANK
Another of Melbourne's best French restaurants is dashing chef Guillaume Brahimi's Bistro Guillaume. Enjoying a Yarra-side spot with a big outdoor terrace up front allowing fantastic views of the city skyline, Bistro Guillaume seems a million miles away from the Crown complex in which it technically resides. The simple but stylish dining room has been designed to resemble the neighbourhood bistros so popular in France, and is overhung by a sea of big floaty lamps, like flowers in the wind or ladies pantaloons.
Brahimi has kept the focus of his menu on simple, hearty and homey French food designed to keep you coming back for more. The onion soup is magnificent, as is the country-style terrine, or you can plump for escargots if you're adventurous enough for that particular tradition. Mains include the likes of comfit duck leg with Brussels sprouts, shallots and lardons, or braised oxtail with parsnips and shitake mushrooms.
PARIS GO | CARLTON
Located on a leafy stretch of Carlton's Rathdowne Street, Paris Go makes us want to do exactly that. Bringing a bit of French bistro pizazz into your life, Paris Go's bright white table cloths shine almost as much as the polished floorboards, and they favour the big framed French poster look too.
Entrees include the likes of homemade rabbit terrine, forest mushroom cups crowned with escargot dripping in garlic butter and steamed Tassie mussels in champers. The rather gorgeously named plats de resistance is a roll call of all the expected heroes, including steak tartare, fillet béarnaise and entrecote de boeuf. The cassoulet is another winner, and we do love their profiteroles.
AUX BATIFOLLES | FITZROY NORTH
Mustering a very French bohemian chic, looks are deceptive in Nicholson Street's Aux Batifolles, with the name roughly translating to 'larking about.' Despite this roguish charm, the ten-year-old venue is one of Melbourne's best French restaurants, plating up some fantastic French feasts. Even better, it's one of the most affordable French options on offer.
Start off with the restaurant's namesake, a teeny tart piled high with goats' cheese and summer veggies that's sure to get you salivating. The eye fillet tartare is great, as is the steak-frites au poivre and the venison grand veneur with chestnut polenta and seasonal vegetables. And if you need one for the road, why not satisfy your dessert craving too and plump for la crêpe Suzette with orange, lemon and Grand Marnier.
Main image credit: Williams Sonoma