We all hate to admit it but there is something timelessly intriguing about the French. Melbourne, being the 'culinary centre' of Australia, is anything but scarce of good-quality French eateries which attempt to recreate its cuisine authentically- but few do it as deliciously as Madame Sousou.
Having never been much of a major fan of French food myself as I am adverse to anything drenched in excessive quantities of butter, I am proud to say that Madame S (as I've affectionately come to call her) has become one of my absolute favourite restaurants in Melbourne. Ostentatiously perched midway along the ever popular Brunswick St in Fitzroy which is unindated with eclectic and unique competitors, this French bistro still stands out unintimidated and is perpetually bustling with activity.
In an attempt to escape the cold, wet Melbourne weather one afternoon my companion and I entered Madame S seeking a delicious lunch. On entry, I immediately felt her warm inviting embrace. The dimly lit interior is cosy and intimate- perfect for a first date or a catch-up with any loved one. The shelves are lined with endless bottles of wine and the walls sporting chic French art, some of which you can purchase if it serendipitously catches your gaze during your meal. There is no French snobbery here, however, and the waiting staff are both attentive and friendly.
The lunch menu is honest and French classics prevail. Being an adventurous diner, I chose the gnocchi with blue cheese, spinach and walnut ($28), which was simply a guilty pleasure. Soft light pieces of home-made gnocchi floating like clouds in a generous bowl of salty, creamy sauce and the walnuts gave the dish a nice additional layer of texture. My only complaint would be the portion of the dish. I could have demolished a serving three times its size.
My carnivorous and relatively unadventurous partner in culinary crime on the other hand, could not forgo the 'Biftek' ($26), which is basically french for minute steak with café de Paris sauce and shoe-string French fries. The dish was by no means pretty---the steak came drenched in a pool of grey-bloody sauce with a generous serving of fries dunked over it in a messy fashion. But appearances can sometimes be deceiving. The steak was perfectly seared to a medium-rare and the fries were great for dunking into the café de Paris sauce (whatever the heck that is). Unlike the gnocchi, the serving was generous and would please any full-blooded French male.
Other mouth-watering items on the menu included the Moules Frites ($29) - classic French dish of mussels cooked in a tomato and white wine broth served with french fries, Gruyere cheese soufflé ($17) and French Onion soup with gruyere croutons ($15). For those lucky enough to be free during the week, Madame S also serves a value-for-money luncheon menu from 12- 3pm weekdays only. You can choose a 2- or 3- course menu plus a glass of house wine, for $35 and $45 per person respectively. The perfect mid-week indulgence for those who don't have to work.
If Madame S were a real person, she and I would be good friends indeed- she is coquettish and knows how to indulge in life's pleasures. I love having her around for breakfast, lunch and dinner and she does each meal with a unique flair. If there was one person who we could learn from about how to live life to its fullest and to appreciate its richness I believe she would be the girl.