We were in search of a quiet nook after a busy week. We wanted to shelter from the rowdy chants of Western Bulldogs' supporters that were enveloping the city, being broadcast from the corner pubs and hotels, and with every second shop, restaurant and establishment draped in red, white and blue.
It was Grand Final Saturday, when many wine bars and favoured pubs were closed, but one had its doors open and was welcoming: Chez Olivier, on Greville Street, Prahran, just near the station. We spied a cosy bar table along the street window, with its back to the central bar, entered, and asked for just a drink. We were given a true-to-form brusque Parisian welcome, and sat down at the bar admiring the empty bottles decorating the interior: vintages from France and Australia, Grange Hermitages, Châteauneuf-du-papes and pre-1970s antiques.
From the extensive drinks list, I settled for a Brasserie du Mont Blanc La Rousse bière, their beer of the month, and ordered my lover a glass of French Shiraz Grenache. Both were exceptional, the beer a delicious refreshing dark-caramel colour, but light Belgian taste (brewed from Mont Blanc glacier water, no less). The accompanying glasses, mine from the brewery, hers the restaurant's with a snail trail at the fill-to-here line, were a nice touch. We opted not to eat, but there is a broad selection of French dishes, ranging from charcuterie tasting plates to the traditional cuisine and specials.
The restaurant was quaint and understatedly casual, with French decor, and quiet when we visited. The rear section is dark and cosy, suitable for larger crowds, and going further back you pass the friendly French chefs in their cuisine, before the cute little ladies and gentlemen's water closets. In true Parisian style, you can even purchase a love-lock for $5 and attach it to a faux fence. And if you like Chez Olivier's Facebook page, you are entitled to one of their Eiffel Tower keyrings.
For an afternoon or night of sampling wines (open lunch Wednesday to Saturday; dinner Tuesday to Sunday), discussing Albert Camus, and enjoying tasting plates that turn towards more hearty meals, Chez Olivier is ideal.