It’s not all that hard to find French food in Melbourne. Prahran market abounds with French-influenced products and delicious cheeses, the Laurent bakery in the CBD offers fresh, crunchy baguettes and Toorak Road is positively bursting with bakeries, cafes and bistros that whisper of Paris.
But I’m yet to find one that evokes the same timeless atmosphere as The European on Spring Street does. Whilst the restaurant is not strictly French, it boasts enough influences throughout the menu and wine list to keep even the fussiest Francophile happy.
Steak au poivre, soupe à l’oignon and chateaubriand read straight of a Parisian bistro menu, whilst the entrée special of three soft-fried eggs with truffle accents offers a subtler hat-tip to French cuisine.
The low-lit dining room features mirrored walls and combines with heavy wood panelling and an elegant old-world bar to create an ambience that offers diners the impression they could be in Germany, Italy, France – in any number of European cities really, and I understand the thoughtfulness with which they’ve chosen their name. The varying accents of the wait staff only serve to add to this cosmopolitan atmosphere.
Max chooses the steak tartare, admittedly, a dish that proves quite difficult to find in Melbourne. Harder yet is to find one that isn’t too heavy or too light on the accompaniments. Here, it appears to be listed as an entrée, and priced as such, so we momentarily debate if the dish will be large enough. We need not have worried, despite appearing reasonably small on the plate, this delectable dish proves too rich for even Max’s French-trained appetite to handle.
I elect for what I hope will be a fresh, light salad of Moreton Bay bugs and chicken, with chervil and cabbage. It is indeed fresh and beautifully flavourful and the bug meat simply abounds. Light it is not however, and I struggle to finish even half.
The dessert menu reads well, but there’s no way either of us can possibly fit anything else in – save for the last few sips of a luscious Sancerre.
My plan for next time (for this will surely become a perennial favourite of ours) is to arrive hungry, and try their onion soup – something tells me that in a place like this, I won’t be disappointed.