It’s six o’clock on a Friday and you’re propped at the bistro bar, striking up a conversation with the maître d'. The talk comes easy because you’ve been here before. In fact, this is your local, where you eat up to three times per week.
At least, that’s the illusion created at Garçon Paris Steakhouse, a new bistro in what was formerly more up-market French eatery Entrecôte City. Garçon (French for waiter) is by most of the same owners as the original (one has parted ways), but they’ve enlisted new floor staff, and welcomed Matt Franklin of Geelong’s Le Parisien to head the kitchen.
The menu is a close reflection of the restaurant’s former steak-centric life. The signature dish is steak frites, which includes a grass-fed, 250-gram Angus porterhouse from Cape Grim in Tasmania; Cafe de Paris butter; salad leaves, radish and onion; and a bottomless supply of frites (for more, just ask garçon).
There’s also escargot in garlic butter, goat’s-cheese soufflé, seared lamb rump with ratatouille, and plenty of cheese and wine, with drops coming from Australia, France and New Zealand.
The front-of-house team is charismatic, knowledgeable, and experienced enough to gauge whether a guest wants a simple feed, or to be “taken on a journey”, according to new front-of-house manager Stef Fisher, who worked at Richard Branson’s iconic Kensington Roof Gardens restaurant in London during the ’80s.
“We're a bit ‘Franglais’ [a blend of French and English] and we're a bit of fun,” he says. “We’re not pretending to be authentic French … but we also really like the idea of what a bistro is meant to be.”
Apart from a few ’80s murals (one of Grace Jones, another of Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Cardin) and some bold red and blue graphics, the decor has remained largely unchanged.
There’s casual seating opposite the bar, well suited to a Sazerac (absinthe, rye whisky, cognac) and a plate of Coffin Bay oysters, while up a few steps is a more formal dining room with white-clothed tables and tan banquettes.
Exposed beams overhead prevent the space from feeling too stuffy. Oversized light bulbs, beaten-copper fixtures on the walls and a sea of bronze-tinted mirrors burnish the space with a hazy orange glow. It’s a spot you can really get comfortable in.
“For people who live and work in the city, [we want to be] their local, or ‘third place’. A safe place that isn’t work or home,” says Fisher. “Somewhere they can come two or three times a week.”
Garçon Paris Steakhouse
6 Alfred Place, Melbourne CBD
(03) 9654 8184
Mon to Fri 12pm–2.30pm, 5pm–late