Buvette Masthead

Buvette: more than a ‘drinking hole’

Amanda Whitley

For a city overflowing with restaurants from every conceivable culture, Canberra is sorely lacking in French cuisine. But the newest addition to the Realm Precinct’s growing ‘eat street’, Buvette, is set to shake things up.

It’s a big space, airy; lots of timber, marble, vaulted surfaces and glass. Taking up the space once occupied by Mavi and Konoba, Buvette is already making a statement as much more than ‘a hotel restaurant’.

It’s a labour of love for Doma Hotels’ Executive Chef, Fabien Wagnon, who was born and raised in Northern France and is bringing a piece of his mother country to Canberra. The name? Well, literally translated, it means “drinking hole.”

Fabien Wagnon, Doma Group's Executive Chef. Photograph: Rebecca Doyle.

Fabien Wagnon, Doma Group’s Executive Chef. Photograph: Rebecca Doyle.


“Buvettes are very popular in France,” he tells Kate Edwards in the first edition of Little National Gazette, the inhouse publication of Doma’s new hotel, Little National.

“In fact my great Aunt ran one in the 1920’s. After workers in the field finished for the day, they would gather at a little stand just near her home and have a few glasses of Jenievie (a drink distilled from juniper berries) and then they would get on the train and go home.”

But it’s much more than a place to ‘wet your whistle’. In the words of my French-speaking nine-year old (who I asked for the correct phrase to use, because my language are rather lacking), “il fait tous les choses que tu veux” (it makes all the things you want).

Buvette's outside area reflects the French dining tradition of facing out towards the street.

Buvette’s outdoor area reflects the French dining tradition of facing out towards the street.


A look at the menu reveals a selection of French classics sitting alongside more modern offerings. Bouillabaisse: Blue Eye, Scampi, Scallop, Mussels, Finger Fennel ($38); Escargots à la Bourguignonne: Snails cooked in Garlic, Herb Butter ($18 6pcs/$24 12pcs); Salad Niçoise: Spiced Yellow Fin Tuna, Kipfler Potatoes, Anchovies, Olives, Tomatoes, Green Beans ($23) and Châteaubriand: 600g Grass Fed Eye Fillet with Green Salad, Onion Rings and your choice of sauce ($66) will please the traditionalists.

Meanwhile, dishes such as Beetroot Salad: Brick Pastry, Chèvre, Figs, Candied Walnuts, Prosciutto ($19); Asparagus Mimosa: Scrambled Free Range Egg tossed with Broccolini, Capers and Extra Virgin Olive Oil ($17); and Pan Fried Hiramasa Kingfish: Corn, Sugar Snap Peas, Pea Tendrils, Mograbieh Pearls ($37) promise lightness and modern flair.

“Classical French food uses cream and butter,” says Fabien. “But my approach is to make lighter sauces, use olive oil rather than butter and slow cook meats to get that beautiful flavour.”

The interior is a mix of old and new.

The interior is a mix of old and new.


As for dessert…well, anyone who has eaten at a Hotel Realm event will have probably tasted Fabien’s pastries – as authentically French as they come.

“Ah I have a weakness for sugar,” confesses Fabien. “I love all the desserts that my grandmother would cook for me:  Apple Tarte Tatin, Ile Flottante (a baked egg white custard) and Crepes Suzette.”

On the debut menu, you’ll find a variety of sweet things (all $17), including Crispy Apple Tart with House Made Vanilla Ice Cream and Slated Caramel; Bitter Chocolate Fondant—Chocolate & Hazelnut Crumbled, Strawberry Sorbet; and Chocolate Assiette 3 Ways—Chocolate Tart 71% from Ecuador, Chocolate Mousse 64% from Peru, Chocolate Caramel & Pistachio Cake, Cherry Sorbet.

The French influence continues to the tableware: Reidel glasses and Laguiole steak knives, handcrafted in France.

So save that money you’ve been saving for your air fare to Paris…take a trip to Barton instead. Chances are your stomach won’t know the difference.

the essentials

What: Buvette
Where: 18 National Circuit, Barton
When: BREAKFAST – Monday to Sunday 6:30am–10:30am; LUNCH Tuesday to Friday 12pm–3pm; DINNER Tuesday to Saturday 6pm–10:30pm
Phone: 02 6163 1818
Web: buvette.com.au


Amanda Whitley

Amanda Whitley is the founder and director of HerCanberra. In her 'spare time', she instructs zumba, loves to cook (and eat), and wrangles two gorgeous little girls. She's done everything from present the tv news to operate a stop and go sign and is passionate about connecting Canberra women. More about the Author