I came in late into Melbourne on a 8-hour flight from Singapore, and my guests have settled in a pub. After such a long flight, I was not going to settle for pub grub. Instead we secured a booking at Philippe.
Philippe is an institution for classic French food in Melbourne. A namesake restaurant by Owner/Chef Philippe Mouchel, who is a protege of the reverent Paul Bocuse, Philippe offers a summary what the chef has accomplished in his years of culinary excellence in Australia. Chef Mouchel is still the only chef to have a “five hats” restaurant in Australia – an accolade for perfection.
Victorian-bred steaks fired over Japanese coals. A rotisserie chicken so good it’s never left the menu. And a wine list that eschews quantity for quality. Chef-owner Philippe Mouchel’s signature is all over this basement bistro in more ways than one.
Philippe is famous for their ducks, and especially the tradition French classic, Le canard à la Rouennaise à la presse. They are one of the few in the world that offer this dish.
I had this dish many years ago at Tour d’Argent, and wanted to have this tonight, but it required a day advance order. Note to self: indicate in the next reservation that I wanted this so much.
Once the orders were taken, the fresh bread service was presented – crusty baguette with fantastic French butter. Tonight’s dinner –
- Le petit plateau
- Burgundy snails cocotte en persillade, garlic & parsley butter
- Dry aged duck breast rôtisserie, duck leg confit Parmentier & herbs jus
- Thousand Guineas Entrecôte “scotch fillet” 300g
- French beans, green beans & spiced almond crumble
- Pommes frites, parmesan, garlic & rosemary
Le petit plateau
4 rock oyster, 4 Pacific oyster, 4 sea water jelly oyster, Skull Island prawns sauce Marie rose, Mussels miso mayo, Hokkaido scallops with passion fruit vinaigrette
And as usual, I always start the dinner with a seafood tower if it is available. And the cold plate of seafood did not disappoint.
Unlike the so-called seafood restaurants that you get around Australia, the mussels were not simply blanched and chilled for serving. The mussels miso mayo consisted of a couple of succulent mussels poached to perfection, and the reassembled back in the shell held in place by a dollop of miso mayo hiding under the mussels. The mayo provided the flavours to the sweet mussels.
And the sea water jelly oyster was also not what it seemed to be. At first, I thought it was simply gelée of sea water that would be placed on the shucked oysters.
Instead it was a Pacific oyster that was encased in a jelly of sea water (or the liqueur that was extracted from the oyster). Every oyster was paired with a clover of nasturtium which provided the herby taste. Delicious.
Of course, they had the regular freshly shucked rock oysters from NSW.
And imported Pacific oysters, which I find to be better tasting.
Burgundy snails cocotte en persillade, garlic & parsley butter
You have to have escargots in a French restaurant this good. The snails from Burgundy (thankfully, they were not from my garden) were served in a cocotte (mini Dutch oven) instead of in their shells. Do not fret, the shell is all just a marketing gimmick to charge you extra. Snails are often sourced without their shells in a can.
Each one of this land molluscs stood up against their ocean cousins in term of taste. There was a bit of sun-dried tomato at the bottom with each snail, and Persillade butter was garlicky with a refreshing taste of parsley. You can dip the crispy toast that was coated with cheese into the melted butter. I could eat this all night.
Dry aged duck breast rôtisserie, duck leg confit Parmentier & herbs jus
My guests were sold on the canard a la presse, but they had to settle on the next best on the menu. Duck Confit Parmentier is a French twist on classic shepherd’s pie made with confit duck legs, topped with intensely creamy mashed potato and sprinkled with Parmesan. Here, it was done in a deconstructed way, with the duck leg confit wa
s resting on a bed of the best mashed potato ever. This was accompanied nay the dry aged perfectly cooked duck breast from the rotisserie. The only thing missing from their signature was the Rouennaise sauce, but the herb au jus was equally competent.
Thousand Guineas Entrecôte “scotch fillet” 300g
I decided not to settle, and went for steak frites. We are eating a piece of history. Thousand Guineas Entrecôte came from the bloodline of Shorthorn locally bred in Victoria but traceable to the original from old England. In 1810, a world record 1,000 guineas was paid for a Foundation Sire of this Shorthorn Breed. In 1825 the first registered Shorthorn cattle arrived in Australia. Hence the name.
It was perfectly done piece of beef. If you are a Wagyu fanatic, this scotch fillet is not for you as it was quite lean and very beefy. But for me, it was the way beef should taste. Paired with the superb red wine sauce infused with au jus and beef bone marrow, it was one of the best steak I had in Melbourne.
French beans, green beans & spiced almond crumble
Pommes frites, parmesan, garlic & rosemary
We had two sides to share with the table. The French fries were crispy and yet fluffy on the inside. You can taste the duck fat used for frying the fries, yes there’s a difference.
Melbourne has no shortage of excellent French restaurants. From brasseries and bistros, to bastions of both haute and nouvelle cuisine, Philippe holds its own as one of the best of the bests.
115 Collins St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia
Tel : +61 3 8394 6625
Visited Jun 2023
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