‘I had no desire to do a French restaurant,’ explains Jason M. Jones of his latest venture, Entrecôte. Yet the new Parisian-style steakhouse seems to have hit a Francophilic nerve in South Yarra or, as they prefer to pronounce it at Entrecôte, ‘South Ra-Ra’ – as a tongue-in-cheek take on the locals’ posh accents. The venue has experienced an ‘overwhelming and humbling’ flood of patrons in its opening weeks. The appeal of a glass of rosé on the sunny geranium-scattered balcony overlooking the Botanical Gardens, $3.00 coffees and the bargain Happy Hour pairing of oysters with Mumm must help. But they surely don’t account for everything.
‘In this field if you do something and you do it consistently – as good as you can – people will follow. Consistency is the key,’ muses Jones on how he thinks Entrecôte will succeed in a place where The Millswyn and Louie recently failed to capture diners’ tastebuds and, more importantly, their hearts. Originally the site housed Lynch’s, known as an institution around these parts. ‘People want someone with a bit of a reputation to come in and look after it,’ suggests Jones. ‘People feel like they own Como. It’s a public space, and we’re getting the same sort of thing here. People have so many great memories of when it was Lynch’s so we’ve done a nod to the old Lynch’s.’
Jones, alongside designers Brahman Perera and Flack Studio’s David Flack, have taken the beautiful bones of the building and resisted the urge to make Entrecôte look like a French theme park. Lynch’s old banquettes have been restored, the marble fireplaces kept and contemporary Trevor Mein and René Twigge artworks from Jones’s personal collection added along with new doors, gilded mirrors and coats of paint (green upstairs and pale blue downstairs). 'It’s sort of a piss-take on a French bistro...a respectful piss-take of course,’ expands Jones.
This humour-laced homage also owes a lot to Le Relais de l'Entrecôte, founded on the outskirts of Paris in the 50s. Says Jones, ‘I went to Paris for the first time 12 years ago. Friends had told me to go to l’Entrecôte which is a restaurant that just serves steak frites, one sauce, nothing else. You have to line up at 5 o’clock. You get in at 6. There are no bookings. And I loved it!’ He returns every year. ‘It’s fabulous, it’s a little bit commercial now, they’ve opened five in Paris, two in New York, one in London, one in Dubai, all with the same concept of tacky French bistro. They do one thing and they do it well.’
Over a boozy catch-up in said restaurant with a friend, Jones decided they should together apply a laconic Australian attitude (love the addition of Berocca to the breakfast menu) to the steaks plus French fries concept and see how it went back home. It’s so simple. All the beef served at Entrecôte is Cape Grim porterhouse, fresh from Tassie. It comes served with house salad and house sauce. You only have to decide how you want your steak cooked and if you feel like oysters or a puffy little French onion gougère to start. Afterwards, save room for a painfully classic French dessert like creme brûlée or tarte tatin.
Entrecôte | 131-133 Domain Road, South Yarra
Image credit: Sabine Legrand