Philippe Mouchel is back, accompanied by a triumphant blast of La Marseillaise, and it’s good to see he’s brought his friends with him. Roast chicken, skin bewitched to a dark gold on the rotisserie - we’re looking at you. Welcome back old pal, welcome back.
Last seen at PM24, Mouchel has taken over the off-Collins basement space previously home to the debonair Brooks. After a gentle makeover the place is as charming as a stage set (same goes for the staff) with smoky mirrors and smoky curtains getting down with luscious caramel leather banquettes. Little wonder the cute couple at table eight has chosen it as the venue to announce their engagement to family. It’s the kind of place worth remembering.
Mouchel is over at the white marble kitchen pass, sending out the kind of food steeped in excessive comfort for which he’s known. Look no further than his beer-braised beef cheek with a lardy emulsion, glazed carrots and cumin and a modern flutter of spice-infused sugary disc so the brain registers crunch-sweet-cinnamon-clove, in that order.
You’ll see from that Mouchel is not entirely of the old school. He even manages oyster originality by turning the brine into a salty-clean jelly, a glistening fjord encasing a single watercress leaf with the bivalve lurking in the depths below. Ten points. And he manages some curing action on the king salmon that leaves the fish so beautifully tight fleshed that it barely needs what in other circumstances would be an equally pleasing little composed salad with dobs of walnut mayo and lemon gel. Finding a beverage to go with it all shouldn’t be a problem - a big, apple-driven Marc Bredif Vouvray was made for that salmon; a Charles Melton GSM from the Barossa is an excellent bedfellow for the beef cheek - although prices means you’ll sip rather than scull.
The only bung note? Snails. They come with a walloping tomato sauce that annihilates all in its wake. But amends are made with the floating island dessert with hazelnut praline and a custardy vanilla sauce that could duel with winter and win. Textbook stuff. Welcome back, Philippe. Please don’t leave us again.