After leaving Bar Rochford, chef Louis Couttoupes spent time travelling and working in kitchens overseas. It was in the 11th Arrondissement in Paris – known as the birthplace of modern bistronomy – where he felt most inspired; a place where fine-dining chefs traded in white tablecloths for gritty laneways, using elevated techniques in casual bistro settings.

Couttoupes brought this inspiration back to Canberra, opening this 30-seat restaurant in the Kingston shopping precinct, plus a fun wine nook, Bar à Vin, inside the former bank vault beneath the building.

The fit-out takes cues from the classic bistros of Paris, namely the dark wood, marble tops and pendant lighting. The kitchen’s imposing woodfired oven is a point of difference, obscured by a glass panel inscribed with the day’s menu.

Dishes are seasonal, and nearly everything has been touched by fire: Jerusalem artichokes – served with saffron mayo – are roasted until soft; padron peppers are cooked over coals; and smoked oil is used in various dressings. The kitchen also favours a no-rules approach – you’re just as likely to see Murray cod served in a Japanese-style konbu and yuzu broth alongside potato galettes, a staple of French cuisine.

To drink, there’s a tight list of lo-fi wines, and beers ranging from wild-fermented lambic ales to straightforward lagers. Kitchen scraps are saved and utilised where possible - in drinks such as the homemade tepache, a fermented low-alcohol beverage hailing from Mexico.

Accessible via the restaurant as well as a low-key red door on the side of the building, Bar à Vin is a walk-in-only spot for more wines, cocktails and simple snacks. It’s inspired by the French tradition of flipping old cellars into bars, with cute illustrations and eclectic artworks lining the walls.

Updated: June 23rd, 2022

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