Enjoy the finer things in life at Bardon’s new French eatery La Belle Vie
The good life – it’s not just a Kanye West and T. Pain classic, it’s also the meaning behind La Belle Vie, a brand-new restaurant nestled in the heart of Bardon. The former site of beloved bistro Lutèce is now home to a similarly chic French-inspired locale, owned and operated by a crew boasting some bona fide Michelin-starred experience. La Belle Vie is retaining some of the classic spirit of its long-running predecessor, but is adding some contemporary tweaks that’ll appease regulars and newcomers alike.
When Romain Bapst elected to close Lutèce and retire from hospitality earlier this year, he did so knowing the Bardon venue was in good hands. His final week at the helm coincided, fittingly, with Bastille Day – and locals flocked to sample his heralded French fare and also be introduced to Simon Lambert and Behrooz Farahnakian, who were gearing up to take on the space and transform it into La Belle Vie. Simon had dined at Lutèce frequently since arriving in Australia in 2015, eventually getting to know Romain through mutual friends. No stranger to the world of fine dining, Simon cut his teeth working front-of-house positions in Michelin-starred restaurants in Montpelier and Corsica, as well as in wine bars in London. This experience made him uniquely suited to not only help maintain the standard of excellence locals had grown accustomed to at Lutèce, but also help build upon these foundations even further with a fresh and youthful approach. Despite his familiarity with the operation style of Europe’s best restaurants, Simon and the rest of the crew are eager to keep things approachable – the professional attention of a top-flight diner, but with the warmth of your regular go-to locale. Once the restaurant space was officially theirs, the team spent the next few weeks sprucing up the space, removing some of the antique flair it boasted previously in favour of crisp and minimal palette. The venue’s key structural elements – the sizeable marble-topped bar area and the south-facing glass-encased dining room – remain untouched. La Belle Vie opened officially on Tuesday August 18, showcasing a menu that blended subtle elements of its previous life with some new additions.
Helming La Belle Vie’s kitchen is head chef Samuel Perrin, who trained under famed culinary maestro Alain Ducasse and brings his mastery of French gastronomy to the fore with a deep menu of seductively rich fare. The offering begins with entrees, with the likes of baked New Zealand mussels stuffed with butter and garlic, house-made salmon gravlax carpaccio and escargot (cooked also with garlic and butter) making for excellent starters. Next comes pâtes, or pasta dishes – these include sand crab lasagna (a Lutèce signature, retained as a tribute) and croziflette (a baked dish made using crozet de savoie – a square pasta common in the French Alps). The main affair offers a selection of dishes spotlighting a particular protein, think agneau (slow-cooked lamb shanks), gambas (grilled king prawns skewers with Persian saffron risotto), canard (honey and spice duck breast with fondant potato), poulet (sous-vide chicken roulade stuffed with prawn) and fillet (a play on steak frites boasting an eye fillet, beurre café de Paris and French fries). The menu is fleshed out by a selection of salads, cheeses and desserts, with classic options such as creme brulee, warm apple tart tatin and chocolate fondant cake with raspberry ice-cream offering a sublimely sweet finish.
Simon is eager to draw upon his bar background to elevate La Belle Vie’s drinks selection to a level on par with the food. He’s started with the cocktail list, which features a clutch of signature concoctions that foreground a different spirit. The L’elegant features cognac, Hpnotiq liqeur and coconut milk, the Epice Du Monde is a mix of spiced rum, amaretto, black pepper, mint and lime with a splash of ginger beer, and the Creme Brulee Martini is a great dessert accompaniment, boasting vanilla rum, Baileys, white-chocolate liquor, custard and caramel. When it comes to the wine, La Belle Vie favours natural, organic and biodynamic drops, with a 50/50 split between French and Australian varieties, many sourced from smaller boutique producers. So as to not overload guests with options, Simon has streamlined the wine list to include only a few kinds of each variety. Here you’ll find organic French champagne from Avize, minimal-sulphite oranges from Margaret River, a mineral-heavy riesling from Alsace, full-flavoured rosé from Provence, a hand-crafted pinot noir from Yarra Valley, and a refreshing moscato from the Murray Darling, among others.
La Belle Vie is now open to the public! For operating hours and contact details, click on over to the Stumble Guide.
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