There are certain restaurants you have on your bucket list, even if it's just a local-to-Perth-bucket list. Ever since the news that Loose Box had closed and world-renowned chef Alain Fabregues was now only cooking at Le Bistro des Artistes in Subiaco, I was determined to make sure I ate his food before I lost my chance.
Despite living nearby and passing by its doors regularly, I only recently got the chance to eat at this highly regarded restaurant. And when I say highly regarded, I mean a star in the Good Food Guide and whoppingly good reviews by every person who ever set foot through the front doors.
Bistro des Artistes, home to two of Perth's most awarded French chefs
And I was unwell and unable to eat. It's probably the second time in my life I have been unable to eat, and I was almost in tears at my lost opportunity.
Still, it's a testament to the quality of both the food and the service that I made it through the three course meal (lunch menu, two courses $45 and three for $50). I should have been in bed but I really wanted to eat here.
The three course lunch menu is very good value especially when you take into account the pedigree of who is putting that lunch on your plate. But remember this is a French bistro, and the food is rustic and there may be some ingredients you might not regularly come across, say pigs heads and trotters.
Full marks to my sister who bravely went in and ordered the terrine board for entrée. It came with four pieces of chewy bread, pork and pistachio terrine, pigs head brawn, and pork rillettes. A bowl of pickles and cornichons accompanied the meats. I tried it all, how could I not? The rillettes and terrine were perfect, but we found the pigs head – despite the crunch and flavour of the topping - too fatty for our tastes.
I ordered the prawn and avocado mille feuilles, a take on the classic 1980s prawn cocktail where it moved out of the glass and slapped between buttery pastry. It had all my favourite elements, but it certainly isn't as easy to eat as the classic. The delicious flaky pastry, long strands of iceberg lettuce and halved king prawns were a challenge to eat neatly. I was also surprised that the avocado and lettuce had begun to brown, as though they were prepared too long before service.
Other options for entrée that day (the menu evolves constantly) include pigs trotter terrine, salad nicoise and egg mimosa.
Mains were a challenge to choose between. There were five options: a meat, a fish, a vegetarian, a duck and a sausage (of course, they are much more delicious than that list suggests).
Let's be clear, these are rustic dishes, meaning they are basic and have no fancy foams and fluffs. Nothing smokes and nothing is covered in freeze-dried dust: pork sausages with braised cabbage and mustard sauce; osso bucco with a baked potato and sour cream; duck confit with potatoes.
This is food your Grandma would cook (if your Grandma was a masterful French cook).
I ordered the goats cheese gnocchi with spring vegetable and mushroom emulsion figuring it would be easiest on a tender stomach. Gnocchi is so easy to destroy but I can safely say that this was the best gnocchi I have ever eaten. It had been pan-fried, leaving it soft on the inside with an ever so slight crust on the outside.
The veggies were simple and plain and had never seen the inside of a freezer. The only complaint I had about the mushroom sauce was the slightly ghoulish colour, but that's probably why so many kids don't eat mushrooms. It was full of real flavour, and my sister who happily ate her John Dory en papillote and then polished off the rest of my gnocchi was in total agreement.
It's seems criminal to have the option of a dessert course for only $5 and not partaking. Even more so when the patissier Emmanuel Mollois (Loose Box, Choux Café, Parist Brest) is the man making it.
Still, there is only far the human stomach will stretch, so I was thrilled that when I requested to change my order from crème brulee to the tart of the day, the staff were only too happy to oblige. They even presented it in a take away contained for me to enjoy later when I was recovered.
My sister enjoyed the floating island (yes, we had seen it on Master Chef) and it looked and tasted delicious, although she was a little concerned about the alcohol content in the sauce. Two soft as air meringues on top of a rich, crème anglaise custard, and topped by a tasty – but potent – liquor sauce.
The two or three course lunch menu ($45/$50) is a brilliant and economic option if you want to try this style of food. Dinner is available either as a three course menu ($75) with a choice of entrée, main and dessert plus tea, coffee, cheese and petit fours.
Alternatively you can order entrée, main or desserts separately for $25/$45/$15 respectively.
Les Bistro des Artiste is a bright and pleasant restaurant at the lower end of Rokeby Road. With a wall of mirrors and a wall of art, classic wooden chairs, and complimentary basket of fresh bread and (real) French butter, this is one of Perth's best French restaurants, and I'm glad I have been able to tick it off my bucket list.
Try for street parking along Rokeby or fork out the big bucks for the Wilsons carpark (behind the old markets). Alternatively, it is a five minute walk from Subiaco train station. For night time parking suggestion, try here.