The more fine-dining aspect of The Brasserie (starched white tablecloths, sleek lighting and besuited waiters) has been stripped back to a more casual, neighbourhood bistro feel for Bistro Guillaume. So the floorboards have been stained black to match the wooden chairs, the tables are bare of adornment except for the paper placemat menus, the lightshades have a turn-of-the-century petticoat look to them and the waiters get about in neat polo shirts.
The bistro menu is a roll call of French classics. We started with entrees of a dozen escargot persillade ($24) and the country-style terrine ($20). Both dishes were generously sized and could easily feed a diner with a light appetite. In fact, I would recommend sharing an entree, especially as the snails come in two separate ramekins so you can have one each. Six buttery, garlicky snails is about the right proportion – twelve is getting a bit over the top.
As for the terrine I liked the fact that it wasn’t too tightly packed so that you felt that you were just eating a loaf of meat, but RM pointed out that he would have preferred a bit more contrast of textures within the terrine, such as the addition of nuts.
Every day there is a plat du jour ($35-$40) and it’s a shame that some of those dishes aren’t available on the standard menu every day as dishes liked braised rabbit, boudin blanc and bouillabaisse sounded very tempting. Nevertheless I’m sure you could still find something to your liking within the mains, which encompasses fish, duck, pork, chicken, venison and the ubiquitous steak frites.
For mains RM went with roasted duck breast, carrot and orange puree, caramelised endive and radish salad ($36) and I chose the Berkshire pork belly with pickled cabbage and apple salad ($36).
Disappointingly my pork belly lacked any hint of crackling and just a tiny bit on the dry side. But if you like pork belly I’d still say it was a dish worthy of trying again and the cabbage and apple salad added the necessary piquancy to cut through the richness of the meat.
The duck breast was perfectly pink and tender and again I liked the endive/radish combination to match the full-bodied flavour of the meat. However, I felt that the carrot and orange puree was too sweet for the dish and I think a more bland accompaniment of say potato or celeriac would have been a better match.
Having said that, we accompanied our mains with a side of Paris mash ($9), prettily presented in its own cast iron pot. For those watching your waistlines you should be warned that this perfectly smooth, creamy mashed potato contains a whole heap of butter and milk (and sometimes cream). One to try but definitely one to share.
Obviously RM and I are not of the dieting type as we raced headlong into dessert (despite the fact that RM said that he was starting to feel dizzy from the fat sweats).
Good thing we did as the standout dish of the evening and definitely the dessert to order are the profiteroles ($16). On the plate comes three spheres of choux pastry with a tissue-thin delicacy to their outer shells, split open to expose fat orbs of vanilla bean ice cream. The waiter flourishes a pot of hot sauce and swirls it all over your plate, drowning your nostrils in sweet chocolate fumes. It’s the perfect balance of cold and hot and crunch and creamy.
My chocolate delice ($18) was also excellent but just lacked the same wow factor as the profiteroles. The chocolate mousse of the delice was just the right side of bitter and well matched with the sugary violet ice cream.
I think the one hat Bistro Guillaume is one of the highlights of the Crown Melbourne restaurant strip. The food ranges from very good to wowsers, the prices are reasonable given the location and the proportions of the servings (we dined using the 25% off discount from the Entertainment Card, even better value) and the setting is suitably relaxed for a catch up with friends or family yet still romantic enough for a private tete-a-tete.
View MEL: HOT OR NOT in a larger map