A joint piece by Frankey & Mai
Setting: lunch for two
243 High Street, Northcote VIC 3070
Mai says: time will stand still as you immerse yourself in the sultry surrounds and immaculately presented menu. Read more.
Frankey says: unparalleled customer service meets a thoughtfully presented menu. Read more.
Our selection for the day:
Clare de Lune Oysters
Scotch Olives with Spiced Lamb & Fetta
Chicken Livers, Muscatels & Jerez
Pork Jowl, Red cabbage & Milk Bread
Bistro Estelle Section Charcuterie
Strawberry & Lemon Verbena Eton Mess
Chocolate Mousse, Honeycomb and Malted Milk Ice-cream
As we enter the bistro we’re met with rugged stripped back brick walls and a gorgeously moody bar. Black wire exposed lights washed the space with sultry lighting across the dark leather benches; the décor calls for a laid back meal mulling over wine and conversation.
There is ample choice available on the strongly Europhile menu designed with the intention of allowing one to sit at the bar and graze, or otherwise, settle in at a table to dine over plated courses.
For me, it’s the small details that count and in this, Estelle Bistro ticked all the boxes. From the metal straw that accompanied my cocktail to the artfully placed muscatels in our dish. The essence of fine food and simplicity was evident in the painstaking restraint and care taken with the number of components that appeared on our plates. It was refreshingly accessible and unpretentious food that highlighted an appreciation for the produce.
The Chicken Livers, Muscatels & Jerez is a refined dish and the stand out for the afternoon. The sweetness of the muscatels and Jerez complimented by the texture of the crisped micro herbs all contributed to a composed dish that appealed to all basic tastes. My only critique of our savoury dishes was the copious amount of fat on the pork jowl – more generosity with the pickled red cabbage would have offset the fat a bit better.
The service we enjoyed must be commended as it was absolutely outstanding. Our lovely waitress artfully balanced herself between being both knowledgeable and accommodating whilst never tipping the line into being pushy or intrusive.
Estelle Bistro is a neighbourhood hideaway. Wander in and listening to the smoky heart-rendering undertones of Etta Jones playing in the background. Pop in for that little nip before heading home or book a table for two and settle into that date where you can throw a flirtatious gaze over your wine glass.
Let’s be clear, a $150 lunch for two is a lot. But if you’re looking for a once-in-a-while premium option, Estelle Bistro might just tick all of your boxes.
Recently opened Estelle Bistro is the casual little sister of the highly acclaimed Estelle (which is currently being renovated for relaunch hopefully within the next few months). It is the brainchild of chef and restaurateur Scott Pickett, and it shows. Scott has long been considered by many to be a prodigy, having won gold at the Salon Culinaire at the ripe old age of 18, with countless accolades since. His influence on Estelle Bistro is clear the moment you open the door.
And boy, we got off to a good start. First impressions count for something, and it’s important that I take a minute to commend the service we received. You see, successfully waiting on a table is a fine line between assistance and intrusion. It takes a genuinely talented and warm person to accurately gauge a table’s personality and cater precisely to their needs. We were fortunate enough to be waited on by Roxy, who – without exaggerating it – was in a class of her own. She took it to the next level with aplomb, poised to answer every unnecessary question. I’m not sure whether it’s possible to ask for a particular waiter the next time you go, but I’d consider it.
That said, it must be acknowledged that while the food at Estelle was exceptional, it was by no means groundbreaking. But that’s not so much of a bad thing. There is a healthy reliance on quality ingredients, matched with impressive delivery. You aren’t left feeling distracted by over-the-top flair or unnecessary gimmick. It’s enjoyably simple and nice.
To me, the experience of a restaurant is more than just the food – it’s a culmination of every single element from the moment you walk in, to the moment you swipe your credit card and head for the door. And it’s here that Estelle Bistro is at the top of its game.
All photography by Frankey Chung (Google Nexus 5) and Mai Nguyen (Samsung Galaxy S5).