Address: 24 Russell St. Melbourne VIC 3000
Ph: 03 9207 7424
Chef: Philippe Mouchel
Hours: Lunch, Sunday-Friday, 12pm-3pm. Dinner, 7 nights, 6pm-late
Everywhere in the world you can get great food. Every continent, every country, has something about it that is exciting, and I would love to eat at all of them.
But when you think of cuisine, there is one nation that stands above, that is seen as a beacon of high-end cuisine. From Escoffier on, the 20th century was dominated by France.
It is incredible just how much of what we eat has been influenced by the great French masters. They created the techniques that the rest of the world uses, and they defined what a restaurant experience is. When you think that even the word “chef” comes from French, it really demonstrates how important this one little country is.
Melbourne is lucky enough to have its own French master in the brilliant Philippe Mouchel, now cooking at PM24, and he is demonstrating just what is so exciting about this cuisine. Every day he stands at the pass, just a few meters away from the customers, sending out classic plates of food. Even on Sundays, when he serves a Sunday lunch that swings from good to divine.
The menu says that the food is inspired by “Philippe’s family cooking”. If that is the case, I want to eat with his family. Even at its most basic, as with a smooth, silken pumpkin soup with crème fraiche and lardoons, it is a lush and incredibly sexy experience.
A selection of entrees delivered morsels of basic flavours. Prawn fritters were plump, juice prawns, wrapped in crispy pastry and fried, served with a gentle tomato condiment. Some just-cooked green beans gave a fresh crunch alongside some sweet figs and the soft saltiness of jamon. The winner of these was probably the rich confit duck salad, with the bitterness of frisèe cutting through the slight fattiness of the bird.
The highlight of the menu was inspired by Mouchel’s mentor, one of the greatest chefs of the last hundred years, Paul Bocuse. His name is included in the title of the Salmon En Crôute, and it is an incredible piece of work. The sweetest, melt-in-your-mouth piece of salmon is encased in flaky pastry, served on a pool of decadent herbed beurre blanc. Just heavenly, and a dish I would happily eat every day if I could.
But being a Sunday lunch, you have to have roast lamb. Or, in this case, rôtisserie lamb. Tender and rich, served on a meaty white bean ragout, drizzled with natural jus. If there was any way I could have one of these beautiful machines in my kitchen I would set it up in a second. Again, this was absolute simplicity, but done to perfection.
A quince and apple crumble tart was the epitome of an autumn dessert, warming you to the core, served with a quenelle of excellent freshly made vanilla ice cream. The sort of dish that I could not believe that anyone could dislike.
The matching wines were exceptional. All of them were French, and all of them significantly adding to the dish they were matched with. Most importantly, they were delivered by a sommelier that had thought long and hard over every decision, explaining in detail the finer points of the choice.
Perfectly professional service made the whole experience seamless. From the world-class bread and butter at the start, through to the house-made strawberry marshmallows with coffee, this was a Sunday lunch to remember. And at $65 for food (up to $135 with the wines), you cannot complain about value.
France is the home of haute cuisine, but let’s just be grateful that they shared their secrets with the world. At PM24 Mouchel is delivering classic French fare to an incredible level.
In recent years, some feel that French cuisine has fallen from the peak of the international tree. But, really, who cares? The food just tastes too damn good.