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It’s your old pal Kit (Christof) Fennessy here, just returned from a month long tour of the Alps. I hope (plan) to give each city we visited a review, and pass on any eating tips or associated recipes I gleaned over the coming weeks, as we work our way through winter here.


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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Bergerac Restaurant

131 King Street
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Last night was yet another catch up with that irascible gourmet Lachlan Milne.  He’d been dying to catch up for after work drinks since he now works “in the city” – and hasn’t been able to for the last fourteen years, since moving to the country and working for councils out that way.  It was also his birthday recently, and he and I share a predilection for saturated fats and booze.  So, it was a night for boozin’ out.
The most amazing thing is, we made the “old school” discovery of the year… French, fatty and with fabulous steaks.  And in the least likely place imaginable.
Now, read on!

Always happy to dine in good company, I organised for us to meet at the Saxon, an old pub in Melbourne that was shut for about twenty years, having been an old brawler, which is now refitted and light, but a bit like the stairs under the clocks at Flinders St station; i.e. it’s just a little too close to Spencer St station (newly baptised Southern Cross), so attracts all walks of life from tourists to boguns – for whom it caters, with Cold Chisel playing and the cricket on TV.
After a couple of rounds, Lach asked if we weren’t going to get something to eat.
I suggested I’d seen a sign from the tram that looked just so goddamn awful, the place would have to be good, like some kind of Baltic BBQ or something.  We walked the block and a half, and read the sign: Bergerac Restaurant. A French restaurant on King St.  Who knew? 
It was, in a word, “fantastique”.  We walked though the door and it was like my idea of heaven.  All the waiting staff were female, French, under thirty, and good looking; that kind of Asterix good looking, with little button noses.  And not one of them understood my attempts at speaking French; so thoroughly Francaise.
The décor, despite the crappy office roof ceiling, was all mirrors and timber, like something from a painting by Toulouse Lautrec (well, maybe not the one above... but you get the gist).
There were a few diners there, and the bill of fare was all French; we had the chicken pistachio terrine, gravallax (both superb), excellent steaks (Lach claiming it was the best steak he’d ever eaten “and I’ve eaten a lot of steaks”) with a green salad with a classic dressing, we split a really great crème caramel which we had with coffees and Ricard (a major brand French pastis – aniseed, which came with a side glass filled with ice and little tongs, and I put water in mine to stretch it).
Oh yeah, and we drank two bottles of French red, Lach opened with a champagne, me a beer. It was formidable.
The only drawback from such excess was the price ($130 each) and the awful feelings I had the next day; the booze really hit me on the tram ride home, the pastis catching up with the wine and saying: “wait a moment, this guy really wants us to get to work on him – can’t we join forces?”  Clearly a truce was made, and they became the Axis of Evil.
I woke in the morning not really recalling coming home, with a cracking hangover and my wife asleep on the couch.  Apparently I had made romantic overtures on arrival (removing my pants in the downstairs lounge room) while smelling like I was breathing spirits that would catch alight at the slightest provocation… and how she could find that unsexy, I will never know.
My only criticism of Bergerac was the bread, which was – to put it bluntly– pedestrian (cheap white baguettes from a supermarché); such a let down and the only thing in there they didn’t make themselves.  Bread is an integral part of French food – they have laws in France about what goes into a baguette, meaning you can get excellent bread at the worst retailers.  Poor quality bread in a French restaurant is like a French café having terrible croissants.
However, this restaurant certainly rates as my “old school” discovery of the year – it’s been there for nearly thirty years, and I give it seven tentacles out of eight and cannot wait for an excuse to go back.  If the restaurant management are reading this, please change your bread supplier, but do not lose heart and DO keep up the rest of your very magnificent work.


p.s. Bergerac is a region in Southwestern France (see a map here), but I associate it with the television show from the seventies, and mostly a very catchy tune by Spiderbait which I have not been able to find on the internet AT ALL (damn you copyright conscious rock bands).  But you can find out about Spiderbait here. http://www.spiderbait.com.au/

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