French chef Philippe Mouchel has announced plans to return to the CBD. He will open a restaurant in the space that recently housed Brooks of Melbourne.

Brooks was well received when it opened in 2012, but the original owners, Gerald Diffey and Mario Di Ienno (from Carlton North’s Gerald’s Bar), moved on from the business in April 2014. In early 2015, chef Nic Poelaert also left. Brooks announced it was going into voluntary liquidation last September and closed.

Timing wise, it couldn’t be better for Mouchel, who is nearing the end of his lease on the old Cafe Vue site on St Kilda Road. The French native has been running his pop-up restaurant, Déjà Vue, on the site for the past seven months.

Mouchel first came to Australia from France in 1991 to open Melbourne’s Paul Bocuse restaurant (he’d been working for the Michelin-starred chef for years prior to this). The restaurant folded after six years, but Mouchel, after stints in Tokyo and Sydney, went on to open his own place: The Brasserie by Philippe Mouchel at Crown. In 2010, Mouchel opened PM24.

One of the dishes Mouchel is best known for is his rotisserie chicken – flavoured with butter, preserved lemon and herbs, and served with potatoes fried in chicken dripping (the fat that drips from the chicken when it’s roasting). Mouchel promises it will be on the menu at Philippe.

“I don’t think I can ever stop it,” he laughs. “I’ll definitely have the rotisserie. I’ll use it for other meats, too.”

Mouchel wants to install a charcoal and wood oven to cook meat, fish and vegetables, and have a raw bar serving oysters and charcuterie.

“I don’t want to call it a bistro,” he says. “It will be a casual place. Elegant and professional, of course. Excellent food, wine, service and ambiance. But it’s not going to be a fine-dining room. I want people to have a good time.”

Aesthetically, the space will remain largely as it was when it was Brooks. The key change will be in the lighting – Mouchel wants the room to be brighter, to help relax the vibe, and remove some of the stuffiness. He expects the restaurant to open by late March.

Philippe
115–117 Collins Street, Melbourne