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Smith St Bistrot

  • Restaurants
  • Collingwood
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  1. Smith St Bistrot Lobster Thermidor
    Photograph: Alex Squadrito
  2. Smith St Bistrot
    Photograph: Supplied
  3. Flounder at Smith St Bistrot
    Photograph: Supplied
  4. Smith St Bistrot
    Photograph: Supplied
  5. The interior of Smith St Bistrot; leather banquettes, wrought-iron pieces.
    Photograph: Supplied
  6. A silver platter topped with cured meats.
    Photograph: Supplied
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Time Out says

Everything old is new again at this Gallic time capsule

It was nigh on perfect that Smith St Bistrot opened its ornate doors for the first time on Valentine's Day. The latest addition to Scott Pickett's growing Brady Bunch clan of restaurants is steeped in the romance of 1920s Paris, from a stage-set salon to please the most devout Francophile to a menu steeped in the certainties of snails, saucisson sec and soufflé. 

The Collingwood site last really rocked Melbourne when it was St Crispin, delivering Pickett's classical training at London's august The Square at a time when the small plates revolution was upon us. More recently it had an Italian whirl as Lupo. But the trend wheel keeps on turning and has now returned us to a love affair with gay Paris, untroubled by too much in the way of modern chef trickery but steeped in the service of full-throated deliciousness. 

Look no further than those snails. They're delivered in a buttery vol-au-vent puff carapace; the vegetal notes of parsley sauce harmonise with the garlicky molluscs while the crowning glory of a herb and shallot salad brings the zing. Or a tuna tartare; glistening jubes of yellowfin in a subtle soy and sesame marinade with a bisected quail egg and wakame-dusted, vinegar-tanged gaufrettes (lattice crisps to the rest of us) for scooping duties. 

There's an extravagance about Smith St Bistrot, and we're not just talking about the $250 caviar service. Everything wears a patina of age, from the enormous, artfully distressed mirrors to the minutiae of mismatched crockery. There are curving burgundy leather banquettes and ornate brass chandeliers; there's designer moss crawling along the rendered walls; there's marble, crystal and copper to burn. Head up to the curving wrought iron staircase, and you'll find a newly installed mezzanine level overlooking the heaving action below like it's a night at the Paris Opera.

It's beguiling – as is the wine list, which has affection for both Australia and the Old World across a huge price range, with particular regard for the hands-off makers of sustainable, organic and biodynamic drops.

Cast off onto a la carte waters for lightly crumbed King George whiting in an elegant crayfish mayo with the textural accomplice of compressed cucumber. Or an assiduously naked hunk of eye fillet with peppercorn sauce, its only plate-mate a duxelle triangulating the umami-fied powers of seaweed, shiitake and truffle. Naturally, you'll be needing frites on the side.

Desserts are as classic as the interiors. A raspberry souffle delivered in its copper pot is all wow factor but a petit crème caramel is a silken, humble joy. It just goes to show that you can choose your own speed at Smith St Bistro. Go high, go low: either way, it's a canny mix of 1920s French cosplay and food that hits a bullseye on the pleasure receptors. Melbourne, we're onto a winner.

Got a hankering for more soufflés and steak frites? Here are Melbourne's best French restaurants.

Written by
Larissa Dubecki

Details

Address:
300 Smith Street
Collingwood
3066
Opening hours:
Mon-Sun 5.30pm-late; Sat & Sun noon-4pm
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