“You can get steak and pomme frites anywhere,” says Fortify co-owner Adam Davies. “We wanted to show a different side of France.”
Fortify is Armadale’s newest European bistro and wine bar, having taken over the old Lona Pintxos restaurant near the corner of Kooyong Rd. But this isn’t your standard steak tartar and garlic snails sort of arrangement. Davies and his partner are a bit more ambitious than that. As the former owners of Lyon’s #1 party hostel, they developed a taste for fine wine, impeccable food...and a certain anti-establishment, punk-cuisine streak. Which is why Fortify’s menu does something we haven’t really seen before: it takes ordinary dishes, and Michelin-stars the sh*t out of them.
Take the mac n’ cheese—not the sort of thing you’d usually find at a swanky up-market bistro—but this one comes with home-smoked bacon, 14-month English cheddar, Japanese panko breadcrumbs and a drizzle of white truffle oil from Alba in western Italy. The Caesar Salad is a tribute to old Melbourne institution, Lynch’s, and includes the finest parmesan money can buy. Davies and his chefs even experimented with different types of anchovies, creams and sauces until they got that tangy mouth-zing just right. If you try one dish though, make it the Beef Bourguignon, an old family recipe that takes (we kid you not) 48 hours to prepare. One spoonful and you’ll understand why.
The menu is paired with a truly epic wine list (Davies is a bit of a wine nut, and seems to have every bottle labelled and catalogued in his Mind Palace), but it’s a tipple that won’t cost the earth. The Fortify crew have deliberately gone for value and quality over fancy labels (pro tip: the 2016 Baillieu Pinot Gris is a steal at $15 a glass). The idea is to create somewhere affordable, relaxed, with a hint of Michelin luxe. A nod to French cuisine that isn’t bound by tradition. Rock on.