The last of my French dining adventures takes us to a restaurant that had eluded me for close to a decade. Montrachet is well known in Brisbane as not only the best French restaurant in town but also one of the best fine dining experiences period. It's a classic establishment that's been around for as long as I've been interested in food. It's still as popular to this day and I think in the wake of so much restaurant competition, this can only be a good sign.
The 'problem' with Montrachet is that they don't do weekend dinners. That's the meal slot I'm most likely going to use for a special occasion dinner and Montrachet doesn't give me that option. As someone who values sleep, I can never bring myself to do anything exciting on a school night (i.e. any night I have to work the next morning). My options opened up when I started working part time so knowing I had a Wednesday morning off last week, I booked Montrachet for the Tuesday night.
The occasion was a belated birthday celebration for my good friend Hien. He had been inspired by my recent French food photo uploads on Instagram and requested someplace that had escargot. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity for us to finally try Montrachet.
This was a fairly spontaneous decision so we didn't get to book much in advance. As such, we ended up with a lateish dinner slot of 8:30pm. We arrived a bit early but were encouraged to sit at a table out the front and peruse the drinks menu. We ended up being escorted to our table before ordering drinks anyway. Montrachet is quite a small restaurant so the seating along the wall is cozy. Amusingly, our table had to be moved out of the way for me to even reach my seat. I found this to be quite charming.
For drinks, Hien chose a chardonnay and I opted for a gin and tonic. These were brought out promptly. I found mine to be a perfectly balanced combination of gin and tonic water and very refreshing.
Entrees with house bread
On this occasion, we ordered entrees and mains each, plus sides to share. I found the pacing on the meals to be very good. A waitress even asked between courses if we were ready for the next course or preferred time to chat. I like this attention to detail.
Escargots en Cocotte - snails baked in little pots with garlic butter, tomato, spinach and topped with puff pastry lids
For our first course, Hien of course ordered escargot. He commented that these were like mini snail pies because of the pastry topping. The snails were odour-free and very buttery and went well with the crunchy pastry. The residual butter also served well to dip the house bread in.
Saumon en Gravlax et Salade de Crabe Salmon gravlax with a light refreshing crab salad
My pick was the salmon gravlax with crab salad. This was a light and fresh starter with subtle flavour. I liked the salmon and I liked the crab but I'm not sure that they really complimented one another.
Poisson du Jour - fish of the day baked with chorizo served with sauce Vierge and vine ripened cherry tomato salad
For mains, Hien chose the fish of the day, which was the coral trout. It was topped with little chorizo discs and a cherry tomato salad. Hien thought the fish was cooked well but that the dish was otherwise unremarkable.
Bouillabaisse - with reef fish, scallops, fresh green prawns and calamari served in a rich seafood broth with aioli and garlic French toast
I went for the bouillabaisse, which is a dish I love but am often disappointed with at restaurants. I was highly impressed with the version at Montrachet. The broth was flavoured with seafood and it also had a distinct saffron note. I loved that is was rich but not thick and cloying. The texture was almost velvety and served to coat the tongue with deliciousness.
I had some accompanying garlic toasts that were perfect for dipping into the stew. There was also a creamy garlic aioli that tasted good either in the bouillabaisse itself or spread on the toast. The seafood components were plentiful and very, very fresh.
Sauteed green beans and homemade pommes frites
When we saw that amount of food we had ordered, we knew we had gone overboard. Ordering sides was ambitious and in hindsight, not overly necessary. I always have room for fries though. These were quite good. I've been complaining a lot about fries at restaurant tasting like McDonald's fries without any point of difference. The pommes frites at Montrachet are noticeably more rustic, and hence have a more distinct potatoey flavour.
The green beans were cooked and seasoned well. They were sauteed with some onion and herbs. If anything I could have done with slightly crunchier beans.
I would have loved to try dessert but we physically had no room left. We couldn't even finish what was on the table. Our dinner at Montrachet was much to my expectations. Service was polished and experienced, lending an upmarket air to the overall ambiance. Decor is elegant and charming, bringing to mind a fine Parisian city diner. Food on a whole was good but I think we could have done better with the ordering. I will say that I had a bad cold that night and my nose was almost completely blocked but the bouillabaisse was so good it sang through my sinus troubles.