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.