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I had certain expectations about Embassy@97 in St Kilda. None of which were realised. But these expectations were replaced by a real liking for this gem of a little French restaurant in the midst of busy Fitzroy Street.
I had read that Embassy@97 was located in the front garden of Brooklawn, a Baroque style mansion which has been used as a French consulate and a bordello, although apparently not at the same time.
So I was expecting a little restaurant tucked away in the grounds of a huge mansion.
Actually the mansion is there but they don't do huge grounds in St Kilda-- not enough land -- so the restaurant itself is smack on Fitzroy Street and the mansion acts as its significant backdrop.
The long entrance to the mansion's front door is filled with cane furniture which creates a nice courtyard. This would be perfect for warm evenings or sunny afternoons when you can do some people watching. In St Kilda it doesn't take long before someone interesting comes past.
An embassy a bordello who cares it's a lovely building
Oh and to the stranger who walked past and gave me a huge bunch of white flowers. THANK YOU.
However this restaurant (cafe during the day) is ever so cute and the traditional French food is fabulous and incredibly cheap for the quality. Which is why I would certainly go there again if I wanted to show someone where to eat great French food in Melbourne.
The seating only allows for 40 or so people and tables are reasonably bunched together.
The menu is fairly sparse but unfussy and revolves around classical French dishes. For example entrees include soupe du Jour, pan fried chicken livers, grilled baguette drizzled with olive oïl and rocket salad and if you have never had them - that old standby - escargot (snails in a butter garlic sauce.) (Entrees range from $9 to about $15).
I opted for baked brie with French bread, which was roughly half a brie in a buttery sauce. Decadent yes, but delightful, most definitely. Anyway French women don't get fat. Or so states the book title. Though I don't remember seeing a picture of the author on the cover.
I did redeem my cholesterol indulgence by only having an entree sized mushroom risotto for the main.
But watched other patrons tuck into eye fillet encroûte poulet basquaise and duck a l'orange, as well as a number of other simply stunning dishes. And I did note their superlatives. (Mains range from about $25 to $33).
These came with accompaniments including bowls of pommes de terre and végétables (in this case peas, in a delightful butter sauce with onions and jambon).
Unlike in other more pretentious restaurants you did not have to pay extra for bowls of vegetables. They simply came with the meal.
Again I skipped dessert, but I definitely regret it. My companions smacked their lips as they savoured the chocolate crepes and cream brulee.
Crepes are a definite speciality here. There are any number to choose from including Suzette (orange and cointreau), mixed berries, strawberries, sucre et citron and banana and pernod. (Desserts around $12.50.)
The lovely waiter was French, indeed he did not have a great deal of English. So this would be the perfect place to try out your school French and this is warmly encouraged. Embassy even has some typical phrases spelt out on their website so you can get some practice before you go.
Prices were extremely affordable given the excellent food.
When I came in I ordered a champagne (sorry, sparkling wine). When I went to order another I thought I should check the price and found it was only $6.50. So it was great to find that there was no great mark up on alcohol either.
During the day they also have special deals including Cafe gourmand for $12.00 which is 3 kind of pastries and a coffee.
This is definitely a great little French eatery despite the lack of grand gardens.