Bistro Guillaume, Crown Perth, Burswood
The baguette is slightly warm, with a craggy, crackly crust. I butter it with a carefree abandon that I'm certain the restaurant's namesake chef would approve of. A sprinkle of salt, then a greedy bite into the bread and butter. Oh yes. I've been secretly studying the menu all week but am still deliciously bamboozled. After we finally place our order with our French-accented waiter, the menus remain on the table as place mats. It's hard not to keep reading and wanting... more and everything.
Guillaume Brahimi is the burly, butter-loving French-born chef and co-host of French Food Safari. His most famous restaurant is the two-hatted Guillaume at Bennelong, located at the prestigious address of Sydney Opera House. Perth's is the second Bistro Guillaume, the first being at Crown Melbourne. The 160-seat Perth restaurant opened in September this year. Jac and I went there for lunch with my sister Juji and her new hubby (still getting used to saying it!) Jay. There's a great joy and generosity in chef Guillaume's cooking on television and I couldn't wait to experience it for myself.
The menu at Bistro Guillaume showcases top-quality local produce prepared using French techniques, as well as featuring classic French dishes. At $18, Bistro Guillaume's onion soup is surely one of Perth's priciest. It's a substantial, impressive bowl - beyond the top layer of frothy cream and the bobbing cheesy toast, you can taste the time and attention that has produced the rich, almost sweet brown stock and soft swampy mass of caramelised onions at the bottom of the lion's head bowl.
Juji chooses the Sydney rock oysters, freshly shucked and fleshy, with shallot and red wine vinegar dressing (AU$21 half dozen, AU$42 dozen).
Jay's charcuterie plate (AU$26) is a fancy deli counter picnic with sliced and shaved cold meats, pork rillettes, a pot of pâté, a thick slice of terrine on yellow mustard, crisp sour cornichons, spiky salad leaves and a short stack of chargrilled bread. We all have a taste and everyone especially loves the rillettes.
My first course is the whole marron with avocado cream, tomato, croutons and cos lettuce (AU$30). It's a dish best described as moist. The tender poached marron is sliced into thick meaty chunks, with crisp vegetables and croutons arranged on a thick splodge of velvety avocado cream. Scraping my fork and spoon on the basalt slab to scoop up avocado cream isn't the nicest sensation (and simply not effective) and with the flat rimless surface I can't stop vegetables escaping - chefs, please stop using these awful slabs. They may look good but are terrible to eat off.
For main course, Jac orders the mussels marinières with French fries (AU$30). In Northern France, moules-frites is a popular dish - will it make a splash in a town where chilli mussels reign? The mussels are steamed in a broth made with white wine, cream and onions. It's a broth that you can dip your fries into, mop up with bread (don't be afraid to ask for more), or simply slurp up when all that's left are empty shells.
Jay orders the John dory with beurre noisette, capers and lemon (AU$38). The dory's a joy to behold, with a deep golden crust and soft, tender white flesh.
Juji and I share Bistro Guillaume's signature dish, designed for two - a magnificent roast chicken served with Paris mash and tarragon jus (AU$75). The chicken is organic and from Liveringa Station, on the Fitzroy River in Western Australia's Kimberley region. It's already jointed for our convenience. It's now just a matter of deciding between drumstick, thigh or breast.
Paris mash is outstanding: superbly silky, creamy and buttery, enticingly evil and wickedly divine. The good news is you don't have to order the chicken just to get the mash - it's available as a side dish (AU$9). Yes, I know it's "just mashed potato", but food lovers, you gotta taste this.
The chicken is plump and succulent. If I have any complaints, there's not enough jus. But that mash... one spoon and I'm hopelessly obsessed.
There are four dishes for two on the menu, designed for carnivore companions: whole organic chicken, spring lamb leg, White Rock veal rack and Rangers Valley wagyu rib eye. The chicken and mash are gloriously good and would easily feed three.
Our table is cleared, crumbs gently swept away and our menus are flipped over so we now have 'new' green place mats for dessert.
Jac declares she's too full to manage dessert and won't order one, but we've been passing dishes around the entire meal and our waiter knowingly brings four spoons anyway.
Juji orders the profiteroles with vanilla bean ice cream (AU$18). We watch the sensually slow Nigella-esque pouring of warm chocolate over the sugar-dusted ice cream-filled profiteroles. We try not to make too many "phwoar..." noises as the chocolate trickles and oozes.
It's like nachos or ice kacang - looks so appealing when you start; becomes a hideous melted mess by the time you're done.
Jay orders the chocolate soufflé with pistachio ice cream (AU$22). The soufflé's like a billowy cloud rising from its shiny copper pot. Obviously, we've been taking pictures of our food throughout the meal, and as the soufflé arrives, our waiter grins and announces: "Get your cameras ready!" We take aim and start snapping as she gently slides the quenelle of ice cream into the centre of the soufflé. Jay has the first taste, of course, while the rest of us impatiently wait our turn. It's melt-in-the mouth chocolate air, lighter than mousse, so light it seems a wonder that it made it from the kitchen to the table without blowing away.
I choose the tarte du jour, chocolate and pear - with pear slices placed neatly on shortcrust pastry and smothered in exquisitely smooth and glossy dark chocolate, decorated with an elegant chocolate arc. Served with the tart: vanilla bean ice cream on cubes of poached pear. Our waiter was right: four diners, four dessert spoons in action.
For most, the prices will relegate Bistro Guillaume to "special occasion" status. But don't mistake sophistication for stuffiness. Although the fit-out exudes style and opulence, the atmosphere in the bright and breezy dining room is relaxed and welcoming. The service was exactly what I'd expect in a restaurant of this calibre: professional and attentive, friendly but not chatty. If you go for lunch, you won't need dinner. For best results, don’t think about the butter – just eat and fall in love.
Bistro Guillaume Perth
Crown Perth, Burswood
Monday and Tuesday 5.30pm to late
Wednesday to Sunday 12noon to late
Telephone: (08) 9362 7551