Review Tartine Review Richmond 2022
105 Swan Street
See the map
|Opening hours||Lunch Wed-Sat; dinner Tue-Sat|
|Features||Accepts reservations, License|
|Prices||Moderate (dishes $20 to $40)|
|Payments||eftpos, Visa, Mastercard|
|Call||03 9428 3339|
There is, in my imagination, the perfect neighborhood French bistro. It’s a place you can come for celebrations, but also visit on a Tuesday night to sit alone at the bar and sip oysters alongside a glass of crisp Sancerre. It’s a place that makes perfect steak frites, where the cheese and charcuterie are plentiful, the waiters are charming, and the dining room is beautiful, but not too precious.
I have yet to encounter this restaurant in real life, although the components of my fantasy are drawn from locations in Paris, New York and Los Angeles. And here in Melbourne, the closest approximation might be Tartine, the newly opened bistro in Richmond which aims for exactly that sweet spot: the French restaurant that feels special, but also laid back.
The corner building on Swan Street oozes charm, its high ceilings and large windows creating lovely airiness. By day, sunlight floods the black-and-white checkerboard floors and moss-green banquettes while at night, candles flicker on the tables. A large wooden bar displays backlit bottles that feature in well-made classic cocktails.
Tartine is the brainchild of chef Andrew Beddoes, who has worked at The Grand, the Albert Park Hotel and a number of acclaimed restaurants in the UK. Ten years ago, while on honeymoon in Lyon, Beddoes visited a restaurant that only served tartines – fancy, grilled, open-faced sandwiches. Melbourne, being a city that loves toast, could appreciate the art of toast, he felt.
The sandwiches are the heart of the menu, at the base of each one a slice of toasted sourdough made from organic spelled and rye flour. One of them is probably enough for a light dinner or a slightly decadent lunch, especially the version garnished with crabmeat, green apple, chervil and crab emulsion ($26) which sings of an oceanic sweetness.
They range from light – pear, Roquefort and basil ($18) – to hearty: charred lamb with muhammara, a spread made with nuts and roasted peppers ($24).
Savoring something so special in such a casual room almost feels like getting away with something.
Supporting this sandwich menu is a range of snacks, cold cuts and a few mains, as well as specialties which are featured on the large blackboards on the wall.
The scallop tartare ($21) is a gorgeous combination of raw, sweet seafood and fresh cucumber, bathed in fluffy onion oil and topped with caviar. It’s such a decadent and balanced dish that it wouldn’t be out of place on the fanciest menu; enjoying something so special in such a casual room almost feels like getting away with something.
In the charcuterie section of the menu, the duck liver parfait ($17) is a marvel of texture, its creaminess smooth enough to send me into a rhapsody about why no one makes savory cupcakes with mousse. as a substitute for buttercream frosting. Its enjoyment was marred a bit by its overwhelming saltiness, but we devoured it anyway.
On the menu, an excellent steak frites ($39), which pairs best with the invigorating bitterness of an endive salad with honey mustard vinaigrette ($12).
Gnocchi Parisienne ($32) comes, quite literally, swimming in burnt butter, a fact that somewhat undermines the lightness of the crispy gnocchi and the springtime elegance of the asparagus and fava beans in the mix.
For dessert, Beddoes goes classic with a simple lemon tart ($16) or a lacquered apple tarte tatin ($18), flavored with Calvados and softened with crème fraîche.
The wine list is, predictably, very French, its most impressive attribute being a collection of pricey but exciting small-production champagnes. I wish the still white wine choices showed the same level of amorous nerdism as the bubbly, and the list was more affordable overall, but there are plenty here that suit the food on offer.
Tartine may not be exactly my dream French bistro, but it’s not far off.
The service is friendly, professional and welcoming. It’s a place for a nice date night, a place to catch up with friends, a place to sit alone at the bar and eat oysters ($5 each) and sip that glass of Sancerre.
It’s a place where the food is beautiful and the venue is beautiful and those things make you feel more beautiful just because you’re a part of it all.
Isn’t that the fantasy of a very good restaurant?
Vibe: Airy and vintage room with many nods to France
Essential dish: Crab toast ($26)
Drinks : Classic cocktails, impressive champagne collection, great French/Australian wine list
Cost: Around $120 for two, excluding drinks
This review was originally published in Have a nice week end magazine