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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Aux Batifolles Brasserie



Have you ever discovered a restaurant so perfect for your needs that you can't quite believe it? One that's so good that you're torn between telling everybody you know of its charms, and keeping it all to yourself so you'll never miss out on a table? I found such a place late last year after reading a great review in Epicure (The Age). It's a newish little French brasserie, tucked away on a suburban strip of Nicholson St, North Fitzroy. Having driven past and noticed it a few times, then read the review I thought it would be a good idea to try it. For us, the most attractive aspect of the review was the mention of the very cheap prices; entrees from $6-$15 and the most expensive main at $25, with most in the high teens.

I've since been back three times, twice with a group of friends from uni who loved it so much, they asked to return a few weeks later. Twice we've tried snails, both in the shell and out; and can admit that we really enjoyed them (and enjoyed playing a little Pretty Woman fantasy with our scary shell pincers). Each time I've been with my uni friends, we've ordered an entree each to share - mainly seafood, which is their specialty. So far we've enjoyed the most amazing scallops any of us have tasted, on a celeriac mash with truffle oil ($12), oysters with hollandaise and spinach ($18 dozen), those snails, some excellent pates and terrines ($7/13) and smoked salmon with a dill cream. These all come with fairly good baguette, which would be a little better warmed.

Mains are all incredibly cheap - from an enormous dish of mussels in a saffron cream sauce and fries ($12), to steak frites ($15), steak tartare ($15. Tried by me as an experiment, and adored!), lamb cutlets ($18) and duck confit ($20). The most expensive main is filet of beef bearnaise at $25. But, a group of you could just as easily fill up on shared entrees, or choose a light meal like an omelette or composed salad ($8-$12).

I have to admit we've never made it to desserts. What kind of women are we?? There is always a choice of about 3 on a board; we were very tempted by profiteroles in chocolate sauce once. But they range from creme brulee to pears poached in red wine with an almond pithivier, and all cost $6-$7. Amazing. How often can you come out from an excellent dinner and a glass of wine with change from $40? Those prices for that sort of food are virtually unknown in Melbourne nowdays.

Aux Batifolles is a cosy type of place, evidently owned and run by the same people. The staff all appear to be imported directly from France and have the most delightful accents; this is the place to try out your restaurant-menu French! There is a sizeable wine list, which is also notable for its affordability and good quality.
I only hope that this restaurant continues to receive the patronage it deserves, and doesn't fall into the trap of raising its prices, and thus, losing its established clientele. Everybody should have a French restaurant this cheap and this good easily accessible to them. Good on them for having the courage to do this, in a fairly obscure location, and with such affordable prices. It achieves that rare function of being perfect for catchup dinners with friends, a place to take your parents, and somewhere for an intimate dinner for two. Very highly recommended.
(The Age review is here, for additional information)

Aux Batifolles (website under construction)
400 Nicholson Street
Fitzroy North, VIC 3068
Cross street: Newry Street
Phone: (03) 9481-5015

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