You don't need to endure a gruelling race on your bike to celebrate the Tour de France. Leave the race itself to the pros while you dine on gourmet fare at French restaurant Mr Mason.
For three weeks corresponding to the duration of the race, Mr Mason has developed a special Tour de France menu. I was kindly invited to try the travelling menu during the first week, matching up to the Southern region of France.
Week one's fare was a nose-to-tail pork cassoulet. The pork pieces were tender and perfectly flavoured. Sitting atop the dish was a pan fried pork belly. I regarded it as a cube of meat and fat topped with crispy skin so was apprehensive about trying it, but it was actually delicious! As the meal was made almost entirely out of meat, it was quite filling.
The serving size was more than ample- despite it being scrumptious, there was no way I'd ever manage to finish it. I recommend going there on a very empty stomach as they've managed to strike the right combination of quality food and plenty of it.
The meal was matched with a red wine from the Burgundy region of France. The glass of Henri de Villament Bourgogne had a strong flavour and perfectly complemented the meal.
The staff were attentive without being too overbearing, striking the right balance in such a cosy restaurant. They checked we were enjoying the food and asked if we required anything else, but weren't at all pushy. Mr Mason offers an intimate dining experience, with rustic décor and warm low lighting. The main seating area is partitioned so it's separated from the bar, making it seem quite private. While the restaurant isn't big, there is a comfortable amount of space between tables. There is also a cosy area with couches for a more informal experience.
Week two of the Tour de France menu takes diners to the Normandy region of France in the North, with joue de boeuf, or braised ox cheek, being the focus of the dish. Finally, week three is set in the Rhone/Alps region in the South-East of France. A seafood affair, week three's meal is boulliabase (fish stew) including salmon, prawns, mussels, clams and calamari in rouille. Each meal comes with a glass of wine, matched to complement. You can download the full Tour de France menu from the Mr Mason website.
The set Tour de France menu costs $35 per person. While it is only running for three weeks, Mr Mason is open year-round, serving classic French fare. They also have an extensive wine list, which is even bigger than their menu. You can take a look at their menus here.
Mr Mason is located conveniently in the city, a short walk from Southern Cross Station. With their fantastic service, cosy setting, and most importantly, amazing food that you'd be hard-pressed to find elsewhere in Melbourne; Mr Mason is a winner in my book.