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Buvette’s French bistro feels are just what we need

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No-one is going to be breaking open their baguette in a Parisienne bistro any time soon.

But for those of us who cherish French cooking, a superior wine list, and sitting above the classic black and white tiles of a beautifully-styled and impeccably chic bistro—Buvette is back.

It was a long absence for regulars to the Barton restaurant which is tucked underneath the Realm hotel. But COVID restrictions meant the French brasserie temporarily closed its doors between February and September.

It was certainly a difficult time for executive chef Fabien Wagnon who has dedicated the last decade of his career to serving seasonal and local produce with a Gallic twist as part of the DOMA Hotel Group.

“When COVID hit, we had to be practical about the restaurant. You can’t mix business and romance.”

But to celebrate the doors reopening earlier this month, Fabien has worked up a spring-inspired three-course a la carte menu which combines all that is great about local produce and takes us far away from Canberra and into the backstreets of Paris for a sophisticated meal. What could be better?

Start with a seat at the bar and Buvette’s signature Lillet Mode de Vie aperitif to put you in the mood for food.

Peruse the succinct but sophisticated menu, which promises the most seasonal flavour hits and currently features peas, broad beans and asparagus.

Try the lime-cured silver trevally, broad beans, blood orange, crème fraiche with green chilli, or the salt-crusted heirloom beetroots with whipped buffalo ricotta, pickled onions, and hazelnuts.

Or perhaps stay in the classic French tradition of a dozen south coast oysters with gin, cucumber and ginger sorbet and wash it down with a glass (or bottle) of Piper Heidsieck. Close your eyes for a minute and you could well be on the Rue Mouffetard.

When it is time for a main, you may find it hard to choose between the pan-fried duck breast with spiced butternut pumpkin puree, shitake mushrooms and a soy reduction, or the baked Hapuka casserole with squid, Eden mussels, prawns and grilled sourdough to mop up those delicious garlicky juices.

Ask the staff to recommend the most appropriate wine to match your dish as the French would insist it wouldn’t be a meal without it.

You can finish with a delicate dessert—the peat whiskey chocolate fondant, with peanut and chocolate crumble and an extraordinary smoked bacon ice-cream. At the other end of the spectrum is the Umeshu cheesecake with golden lum gelee and lychee sorbet.

But when in France, cheese is de rigueur, and a selection of Australian and imported cheese may be a perfect end to the evening.

Stay for an espresso and chat to Fabien, who maintains a watchful position at the open kitchen pass. He is always happy to chat with diners about the menu, ingredients and techniques. And after spending six months behind the scenes at the hotel, he is delighted to extend a personal welcome to diners.

“I do love to watch the floor and see people’s reaction to the food and how they enjoy the meal. They often stop to say thank you on the way out.”

COVID restrictions mean Buvette is taking only 50 customers at any time inside and 40 outside. So bookings are a must.

THE ESSENTIALS

What: Buvette Bistro and Wine Bar has reopened
Where: 18 National Circuit Barton
Hours: Thursday to Saturday 6-10 pm
Book here

Photography: Anisa Sabet

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