Bon Ap’ is different to most French restaurants in Melbourne. There’s no steak frites or French-onion soup on the menu; no white tablecloths or waistcoated staff.
“I wanted to give people a feel of what France is about at the moment,” says co-owner, Sebastien Carmona. “Not what France was about 30 years ago.”
He met his two business partners in Australia. Sommelier Damien Desbois (ex-The Grand Hotel) is from Brittany, across the channel from England. Francoise Lowe is from Arcachon, a seaside town near Bordeaux. Carmona (ex-Bouzy Rouge) grew up close to the Pyrenees.
“In Paris or Toulouse, where I come from, there are a lot of cafes and restaurants serving small plates,” he says.
Chef Arnaud Mallet (another expat) keeps it simple. Early on there are croissants, toasted sandwiches, sweet and savoury waffles. Later, charcuterie and snacks such as olives and pickled vegetables.
If you’re sticking around for a full meal there are three seafood dishes; steak tartare; coq au vin; and veal-and-pork meatballs delivered to the table in little cast-iron vessels. Finish with cheese or crème brûlée (no point doing away with all the classics, right?).
For now, the wine list is similarly petite, due to budget constraints. The focus was on covering the major regions of France, which take up 80 per cent of the list. The remaining 20 per cent is from Australian vineyards.
Only partially by design, there’s a similar ratio of nationalities among the staff. “If they’re good and they’ve got a French accent, it gives the place a bit of charm,” Carmona says. “I can’t deny my own accent, because it’s pretty sick.”
193 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
(03) 9415 9450
Tue to Sat 10am–11:30pm