Friday, September 30, 2011

P'tite Ardoise Bistro, Beaufort Street, Highgate, Western Australia

P'tite Ardoise Bistro is a French bistro located at 283 Beaufort Street, Highgate, Western Australia (diagonally across the road from the Brisbane Hotel), and is run by Normandy couple Xavier and Valerie, and the cooking is indeed a Normandy style.  Even the name refers to a the slate roof tiles which are apparently ubiquitous in Normandy, and which also get put to other use: Back in the good ol' days in Normandy, before the advent of fancy touchscreen POS systems, local bistros chalked up a running tally of diners' tabs on le p'tite ardoise, which would then be settled at the end of the meal.

Anyway, I had been wanting to check out this restaurant for some weeks when a mate of mine, Gihan, suggested a long overdue catch-up.  So I seized the perfect opportunity and booked at table at P'tite Ardoise!

So I met Gihan and his new girl Sharon there, and Gihan even generously brought a bottle of chablis which I recommended (yes it's BYO too - can it get better?)

It's a cosy, comfortable, if small venue, so the tables are close to each other, but not packed too tightly.  And there is an enormous list of specials, which change regularly depending on the seasonality and availability of fresh produce - everything is made fresh

As with all great family-owned hospitality pairings, Xavier runs the kitchen and Valerie runs front-of-house, meaning you get that all important combination of great food and great service.  Xavier is a meticulous man who wants to cook things the right way.  All his sauces, stocks and gravies are made the hard way: from scratch, then patiently reduced over hours (or more) to achieve the desired thickness and consistency.

This place might be styled as a casual bistro, but the amount of attention and care that has gone into the preparation of the food and their presentation on the plate goes way beyond that, and would be at home in any good restaurant.  All of the waitstaff appear to be French (or maybe with really good French accents), and have all been extremely well trained.  When Sharon couldn't finish one of her dishes, because she was being dietarily responsible, our waiter solicitously asked whether there was anything wrong with the dish when he came to collect the plate.  Now this is what I'm talking about!

There is a range of familiar and exotic delights to satisfy any customer (unless of course if you don't like onions, but then, what the hell are you doing in a French restaurant?!).  The duck neck rillette was a superb entree; the rabbit leg a tender, moist and filling main, and the desserts are amazing.  So good are they that Valerie and Xavier wisely offered a cop-out option for those of us who can't make up our minds ... like me.

There was the classic French crème brûlée, perfectly made - tap on the crust of blow-torched caramelised sugar with the back of your spoon, then dip into it for a spoonful of caramel and vanilla custard.  The stuff beneath is perfect - not runny like many lesser establishments serve up, nor hard-boiled like other lesser establishments serve up; it's firm, yet yields readily to your spoon.

And then there is the Ille Flottante, or floating island.  Yes it doesn't look like it's floating in the picture, but with the solo dish, you get this beautiful sponge (?) cake crusted with roasted slivers of almond, floating in a light creamy sweet sauce.

And of course the chocolate mousse.  Made with dark chocolate, it was richly flavoured yet feather light.   If Mr Creosote had this chocolate mousse instead of that fateful wafer-thin mint, he might still be alive.

A special touch at the end of your meal arrives with Valerie, holding a wooden box sporting all sorts of sweets from Normandy, including sherbet lollies and carambar, a caramel confection that sticks to your teeth.

And of course, to show that these guys are serious about feedback, they get you to write your comments on a p'tite ardoise (okay it's a piece of paper made to look like one), and stick that up on the wall with all the other comments that came before.

Truly a great hidden treasure of Perth, so get yourself down there to enjoy some seriously good food.  And currently BYO while they await their liquor licence.  What's even better, Valerie tells me that they're also working on getting a permit to have a few tables on the footpath outside, hopefully in time for summer - true bistro dining in the sun!

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