24 Russell Street
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Some years ago, my favourite restaurant was The Brasserie by Phillipe Mouchel, in Crown. We used to visit reasonably often, for my dad's birthday in '05, my birthday in '06, and more recently for my graduation in '07. I remember they did fabulous snails, a wonderful tarte aux pommes fines, and they had a great value lunch deal. Then Phillipe left, and the food, well, took a turn for the worse. ("Jato standard", as my dad would say). So you can imagine how excited I was when, after hearing some faint rumblings and rumours, I read this article in The Australian, confirming that Phillipe was opening a new restaurant, PM24! (I was equally sad when I realised the new restaurant was taking over the space previously occupied by Murasaki, one of my favourite Japanese restaurants).
We visited PM24 late last year, on a Monday night, to find the restaurant pleasantly buzzing. The space has been transformed since its Murasaki days - gone are the cream carpets, beige walls and noren curtains, replaced with bright white walls, exposed ceilings and arty lamps. I quite like it.
Phillipe was an energetic and constant presence throughout the night, standing outside the open kitchen and inspecting each dish before it was sent out. Many of the waitstaff will be recognisable to regulars of The Brasserie at Crown, and the staff's experience and familiarity with each other means that everything tends to run quite smoothly. On the night we visited, there didn't seem to be any of those teething problems you tend to associate with brand new restaurants.
Our party of 4 was seated at a small round table. A typical Parisian cafe style table, it looked great, but wasn't particularly practical - in addition to the small table, the chairs had curved backs, which meant there was nowhere to put our bags. It's not very comfortable eating a meal with handbags balanced precariously on your lap! There was one positive about our location though - an unencumbered view of the pastry kitchen!
The meal starts with freshly baked bread rolls (definitely fresh - you can see them being baked throughout the night!), in a cute little cloth bag.
|Freshly baked, warm bread rolls|
They come with butter, salt, and a delicious dip made of fromage frais, olives and olive oil. I thought it was fabulous, and liked it even better than the butter. (This is a big call for me, as I looove butter!)
|Burgundy Style Snails - Tomato fondue, garlic and parsley butter, toasted bread - 1/2 doz $19|
|Seafood Niçoise Salad - Passionfruit, olive oil & rosemary vinaigrette, asparagus royale - $27.50|
And now we come to the mains! My dad ordered the wagyu assiette: a selection of different cuts of beef presented together, with extra jus on the side. It reminded me, in essence, of The Point's "Taste of New Season's Lamb". I love the idea of trying different cuts of beef in the one dish, rather than being confronted with a massive single steak. (Heh, like the 400gm rib eye that defeated me in Tassie!)
|Wagyu Assiette - cheek, shortrib, oyster blade - $55|
|Suckling Pig, Boudin Noir - Panko crumbed croquette, smoked pork jus and fresh corn - $38|
Sandra and I each ordered the Organic chicken. It takes 50 minutes to cook, slowly rotating in a rotisserie in the open kitchen. Ta-dah!
|Organic Chicken - Rosemary and preserved lemon, vegetables rôtisserie - $36|
I suppose we didn't really need sides, but we didn't realise how big the meals would be. We got peas "in the French style", cooked with lettuce and pancetta. (I don't normally add pancetta to the French peas I often make at home, but it makes a nice addition).
|Peas French Style - $8.50|
|French fries - $8.50|
After that massive plate of chicken, and more than my fair share of chips, I didn't want my own dessert. But that's not to say I didn't sneak a few bites of the ones we did order! Unfortunately, the chocolate waffles I saw on their online menu were no longer available (dang, I'll have to make my own), so we went for more classic desserts.
|French crepes - Lemon curd, raspberries - $18|
The most dramatic dish of the evening was the Tahiti vanilla crème brûlée. Rather than being pre-blowtorched in the kitchen, the sugar-topped custard is brought to the table and set alight!
|Tahiti vanilla crème brûlée - $18|
Oooh...! How great does that look! The downside to the dramatic approach is that the sugar didn't get crackly all the way across. However, the custard was rich and creamy and full of lovely vanilla-bean flecks.
So far so good for the new PM24. It made a great first impression, and I can't wait to go back and try some more!