French Touch Bistro Surry Hills ** Has permanently closed!!
French Touch Bistro – Surry Hills
** Dear readers, sadly this lovely restaurant has permanently closed!!
Cosily nested on the central end of the lively and casual dining strip of Crown Street you will find French Touch Bistro. As if taken out of a page of a children’s story book or an oil painting depicting a café scene of an historic, whimsical street somewhere in France. The pastel façade of the bistro with its striped awnings, outdoor lanterns and indoor lighting flooding warm amber hues onto the street where rustic furniture in pastel colours rest comfortably on the side walk. The bistro’s street presence alone entices and tickles the imagination and ignites your curiosity. The heavenly aromas whafting out of the bistro and on to the street lure you to come in and experience the magic and joy of the humble crepe. Like a mesmerised child standing at the window of a confectionary shop you fall under a trance and want to immediately experience the delights that beckon from within.
The hustle and bustle and warm décor of the bistro are instantly visible through the large expansive windows. We enter the restaurant as if walking into a movie scene on a staged set where waiters and staff are in French costume and the furniture and décor are perfectly staged to appear as though you are somewhere in provincial France. The waiters and chefs are garbed in Breton striped tops, aprons and berets rushing around with over-sized plates offering gorgeously prepared galettes and crepes. I glance over to my left and am delightfully surprised to see a petank area with real boules and a score board. An enthusiastic player is smoothing out the sand with a rake preparing the petank station for its next game. The chefs put on an animation-like performance at their stations behind the service counter spreading the liquid crepe batter with their rozels over large cast-iron hot plates and flipping the ready crepes with a spatula onto glistening white plates. To the right an expansive banquette dining area is anchored by white washed wooden tables and pastel coloured provincial dining chairs. Two generously sized tables host two separate parties of chatty and happy diners enjoying their galettes and French dishes while other patrons fill the surrounding tables for two or four. Our table. nestled in the far end of the bistro, is accompanied by an arco lamp and beautifully dispalayed framed art on the all with a vibrant flower bed beside is the only table that sits empty or at least until we are all seated. Pastel cushions are scattered over the banquette seating area and the walls are adorned with French inspired framed art and prints while amusing and enjoyable kitschy French inspired knick-knacks and tchotchke fill counter tops and in those unexpected places and popping up in hidden away nooks and corners. Centred amongst the framed art is a pretty painting of Le Pastel a lovely hilltop village in the South of France the home place of Julie Garrigues the founder of French Touch and who I had the pleasure of meeting and conversing with during the night. Julie, as it happens, is a trained Maitre-Crepier/ crepe master and the daughter of Michelin starred Chef Gerard Garrigues. Julie’s love and passion of French cuisine and entertaining is apparent by her devotion to the bistro and their patrons. This is a bistro dedicated to the rustic cuisine of France and the love of family and French tradition delivered and shared with pride and joy.
It’s a group of eight of us on the night and we are all starving and ready to eat, eat and more eat. The menu is more like a book listing a heavenly endless selection of galettes and sweet crepes with a sound selection of classic French rustic choices for entrees and mains including a few deliciously assembled salads. The drinks selection is wonderful and filled with an amazing choice of your typical beverages plus wine, cocktails and tempting ciders to accompany the savoury crepes or galettes which is a tradition of Brittany. We start with Planches/boards to share – a delicious cheese board with a trio of French cheese served with quince paste, dried fruit and walnuts and a charcuterie platter with duck French terrine, fennel saucisson, Prosciutto, black olive tapenade and baguettes with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and butter. The galette menu seems endless and filled with so many choices of gourmet delights and we order to share ala Parisienne gallete with double smoked ham, mushrooms, swiss cheese and a free range egg that pops up from the centre and a La Rustique galette with double smoked ham, spicach in homemade béchamel sauce and swiss cheese. The savoury galettes were sensational and so delicious while the platters were artfuly displayed and tastefully thought out so that every food item complemented harmoniously with the cheese or charcuterie. Julie assisted us in selecting a wine to enjoy with our starters and mains and we decide on a stunning bottle of Bordeax superieur Vieux Naudin 2012 red wine to share and perfectly divine.
While we wait for our mains to arrive I can’t resist the opportunity to get up close and personal to the chefs preparing delicious crepes and galettes. I watch in wonder at their animated performance and skill and proficiency in manipulating the liquid batter over hot plates and then artfully adorning them with the necessary ingredients. I watch how the chefs use the hot plates that double as grills used to char items required for assembling the deliciously prepared salads. As if by magic, a number of salads are whipped up in no time and a bowl of onion soup are displayed on the counter ready to be conveyed to the party table waiting hungrily for their dishes to arrive.
For mains we order our own choices and decide on Filet de Boeuf et Pommes de Terre Sarladaises – 220g beef pasture fed eye-fillet served with fried seasoned potatoes. Boeuf Bourguignon et Pates Fraiches – beef braised stew in red wine sauce with mushrooms, carrots, onions and herbs served with fresh pasta. Confit de Canard et Pommes de Terre Sarladaises – traditional French duck confit served with fried seasoned potatoes. Cassoulet Traditionnel – a casserole of white beans, Toulouse pork sausage, duck confit and herbs slowly baked in the oven. And lastly, one of my glutten and diet conscience friend’s orders the scrumptious Popeye galette with mushrooms, swiss cheese, spinach marinated in homemade béchamel sauce. Galettes are a great choice for people with glutten issues as it is made from buckwheat flour rather than white flour and is very nutritious. Everyone enjoyed their choices and as usual I take a sample or bite from everyone’s plate and pleasantly found the mains to be all lovingly and rustically prepared evoking the feeling and taste of an honest home cooked meal coming straight out of a country house somewhere in Provence.
I don’t think one could contemplate leaving French Touch Bistro without having tried some of their signature sweet crepes it certainly would almost be a crime not to. The most difficult part when dining here is deciding on a sweet crepe to try and the mouth-watering choices can certainly bring the most strong-willed person to tears. After careful and determined consideration I decide on the Bananarama sweet crepe with caramelised banana, salted caramel sauce, whipped cream and grilled almonds. I think it was the caramelised banana and salted caramel sauce that made me cave in not to mention my adoration of the British pop girl band from the 80’s. My rather sweetly bedazzled mon amis struggled with their choices as well but in the end decided on a selection of ice-cream, strawberries with ice-cream (made by request) and a La Choco Gourmet sweet crepe with the requested addition of grilled almonds – a confectionary sensation.
Julie Garrigues together with her chefs and team of friendly, dedicated and fun-loving striped and bereted French waiters with envious accents made dining in this heart-warming bistro an absolute pleasure and joy. All our desires and expectations were met with a smile and enthusiasm to serve and please. Despite the crowds and catering to two large parties on the night, our table was attended regularly and waiters came up to us inquiring if everything was okay and if we were in need of any more drinks or food without being overly obtrusive. Our orders came relatively quickly and at decent intervals to allow us to chat, sip on wine and digest. Julia especially was extremely jovial and lovely to converse with and offered us interesting facts on the restaurant, South of France and her culinary background.
French Touch Bistro is a culinary delight where in just a short visit you are immediately transported to many regions of France without buying an air ticket. Order a sweet crepe and you could be at the Rue Cler or Latin Quarter in Paris, order a savoury galette accompanied by a cider and at once you’re in Brittany or Normandy or perhaps Alsace. And order one of the rustic mains or entrees and you’re in Burgandy or a Provincial town of France gazing over fields of lavender and sunflowers or whisked away to beautiful Bourdeax enjoying a regional cheese platter while sipping on a carefully selected village wine. A bistro that offers true meaning to the word and most definitely an eatery to be treasured, admired and re visited time and again. Dear readers, are you entranced by French Touch Bistro inspired by France?
Canvas of Julie’s home “Le Pastel” in France