Three places to get a taste of France without leaving Canberra | HerCanberra

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Three places to get a taste of France without leaving Canberra

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As our Instagram feeds continue to fill with those who have managed to escape Canberra’s winter, we find ourselves faced with the return of Euro Summer Envy (ESE).

So, let’s rally towards our local French restaurant and break out of our cold funk. We asked resident Frenchman, teacher at Alliance Française and Ainslie IGA cheese manager Franck Leonhardt how we can take our tastebuds somewhere slightly warmer (even if the rest of us stays here).

Le Très Bon (Bungendore)


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As the oldest French restaurant in the Canberra region, Le Très Bon is worth the 35-minute drive out of the capital. Its exposed brick fireplace and vermillion-licked tablecloths are intrinsically French, allowing you to transcend borders into the heart of Paris.

Its interior creates the perfect cosy setting for head chef Christophe Gregoire’s culinary creations to be tasted and its winter menu pays homage to tradition while playing with seasonal layers and delicate flavours. The cauliflower velouté is a creamy concoction of cauliflower and leek whites, a delicacy of choice for Louis XV’s mistress Madame de Pompadour. Every mouth-watering bite is filled with late eighteenth-century nostalgia and spine-tingling moments of creamy, aromatic cauliflower.

Taking us to the southwest of France, the cassoulet is what Franck describes as a perfect winter dish. Fragrant white beans weave themselves through slow-cooked meats. It’s a hearty dish that will simultaneously warm your bones and your heart—the kind of meal that will bring out your inner French citoyenne. Le Très Bon is a love note to French cuisine and the memories tautly anchored by tradition.

40 Malbon Street, Bungendore |

Ondine (Deakin)

While most of us can’t celebrate this Bastille Day frolicking the streets of Champs-Elysée, Ondine is arguably the next best thing. In the hands of Chef Keaton McDonnell, Ondine will excite your tastebuds with deep layers of traditional French flavours. It’s the embodiment of balance, unexpected details and surprising combinations—a place where dishes are perfectly at home in a warmly lit European bistro ambience that makes you want to pause momentarily, soaking up every detail.

If you become overwhelmed by the menu, Franck points us in the direction of the beef bourguignon paired with the life-changing Paris mash and petits pois á la Francaise. This dish of buttery salty goodness and rich red wine flavours will transport you straight to 20th-century France, soaked in tradition and French identity. And it wouldn’t be Bastille Day without escargots bathed in café de Paris butter —in the temperament of a true freedom

fighter, we encourage you to be brave and give it a try. The Parisian vanilla bean crème brûlée is a no-brainer—a smooth and sweet finish after a night of revolutionary favours.

7 Duff Place, Deakin |

Les Bistronomes (Campbell)


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As its name suggests, Les Bistronomes is filled with duality. It’s a place where casual dining joyfully intertwines with the sophistication and class of a fine dining experience. Chef and owner Clément Chauvin has a fierce reputation throughout the ACT, at the helm of an authentic fine dining experience to rival any in France itself.

Here, even the toughest of critics become disarmed by the intricate and subtle combinations of traditional French flavours. Signature dishes such as the tartare de boeuf and canard à l’orange stay on the menu all year round for those that want to experience Bastille Day more than once a year. The chateaubriand is Franck’s recommendation—a filet mignon roast oozing with robust beef flavour.

“The chateaubriand is divine. It’s a very creative, beautiful plate.”

Their four-course truffled Bastille Day degustation menu will walk right up to the line of elegance and history, from le carpaccio de Saint -Jacques (scallop and truffle carpaccio, with a hazelnut dressing) to les profiteroles to sweeten the palate. It’s also important to note that their wide variety of cheeses have been given Franck’s tick of approval.

Les Bistronomes has a certain je ne sais quoi that will keep you coming back for more—a beautiful and delicious salute to the French way of life.

18 Blamey Place, Campbell |

Feature image: Ondine

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