Level 1, 380-384 Little Bourke Street (via Hardware Lane). 9600 2142
French Saloon wasn’t lifted from a Parisian streetscape and nudged into place in Melbourne’s hip Hardware Lane. It just feels like that.
This charming 60-seat bistro caps the polished Kirk’s Wine Bar and almost completes the colonisation of the corner of Hardware Lane and Little Bourke Street by one of our city’s top hospitality teams.
Ascend the narrow timber staircase to the first floor of the historic former Kirk’s Bazaar Hotel, past the deli window where hanging house-cured meats add authenticity (and augment the menu) to a sanctuary re-imagined as French.
Red-painted ceiling timbers, worn floorboards, classic furnishings and a zinc-trimmed bar wear their expensive makeover with Euro nonchalance.
There’s a quaint rooftop terrace, a showpiece function room and an air of confidence carried by owners Con Christopoulos, Josh Brisbane and Ian Curley (The European, City Wine Shop, Supper Club).
Open just six days and two staff down when we visit (our waiter mentions this in passing at the end of our meal), the professional team dosen’t miss a beat.
Tables were almost full; there was a party in the private dining room and a crowd on the terrace while executive chef Ian Curley calmly dined with a guest.
The kitchen, which was built off-site, is headed by Todd Moses (Circa, Golden Fields, Supernormal) and turns out elegantly plated, technique-proud classics with a few tweaks and twists.
Saffron-enhanced clam escabeche is smoky, salty, freckled with dill and served with crisp potato wafers.
A tender suckling pig and velvety foie gras terrine arrives with sticky fig jam and slices of perfectly browned brioche. “Duck, cherries, sweet and sour radicchio” is absolutely undersold on the menu and consumed by us with all the grace of a flock of seagulls.
Next door, hoardings cover a shopfront in the laneway where the wine bar’s extension will complete the takeover.