11 Toorak Rd, South Yarra - ph: 9866 8569
Come here for: as French as it gets service, food, ambiance
Don't come here: expecting warm, friendly service
France-Soir is a Melbourne institution. The restaurant has been on the exact same spot for near 25 years.
I guess the combination of being such a long established and so French (we had two waiters coming to our table, both middle-aged French men who you could tell have been working there forever) made service feel a bit rash.
But apart from unimpressive service, we ended up having a really enjoyable night.
The restaurant is BYO ($12 corkage) and we brought 2 really good bottles of wine. Champagne was promptly put in ice and red in a decanter. Service might not have been friendly, but was certainly proper and efficient.
The whole restaurant atmosphere feels very French bistro-like. From the menus in laminated plastic to the vintage posters on the wall, cramped tables with Bentwood chairs... So I decided to order accordingly and go for French classics, starting with the onion soup.
The soup itself tasted delicious, but the cheesy toasts on top were totally soggy by the time it got to the table and not at all crispy. As much as I like the resulting melted cheese in the soup, some crunchiness would have made this dish perfect.
My friend's salad was beautifully presented. However, the combination of tomatoes, raw onions, olives and vinaigrette was too acidic and a bit overpowering. She enjoyed it, but did not finish the dish.
I chose the magret de canard for main. It is interesting how this method of cooking duck breast doesn't seem to be very popular in Australia. It's one of my favourites, but I rarely see a restaurant serving it.
The duck was perfectly tender and the jus complemented it well. It would have been a great dish if it wasn't for a couple of simple mistakes: sautee potatoes were (very) undercooked and duck skin was slightly burnt (not sure if burnt is the right way to describe it; tasted a bit like charcoal).
Hubby also had duck - duck a l'orange. Meat was tender and juicy. Again, another dish that would have been great except for... it was served a bit cold.
Our friend tried the chicken and really enjoyed it.
Lamb cutlets also looked very tender and nicely cooked.
Both couples shared French classic Crepe Suzette ($13.50) for dessert. Deliciously alcoholic, zesty and sweet - a winner. I forgot to take a picture, unfortunately.
It's funny how even with all the little mistakes and casual service we still had a great time at France-Soir. The company was good, good wine and the boisterous atmosphere all contributed to a very enjoyable night. I'll probably be coming back.