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In search of a French fix

LIKE silver service, Perth’s French cuisine restaurants are an endangered species that could be counted on one hand. Certainly many chefs enhance their innovative dishes with haute cuisine influences but restaurants dedicated to it are few and far between.

My cuisine hunt for a dining room committed to all that goes with the classic cooking – dairy products, one-legged frogs, rich, tasty, unhealthy sauces and snails swimming in garlic within their shell – ended at Melville Parade in Como at a south-of-the-river institution called Frenchy’s.

It has recently taken a new chef on board, Laurent Baclet, a 30-year-old French New Caledonian, who has worked extensively in Europe.

This man of twin talents enjoys his calling and in addition to being a chef is also a pastry cook. His history ranges through sous chef, pastry chef, chef de partie, chef de sauce and head chef.

Married with a young son, WA drew him because of his love of water sports, particularly surfing. A good job offer from Alain Goulet in the Frenchy’s kitchen was also a catalyst.

Chef Baclet was born in New Caledonia where he spent his boyhood before moving to Tahiti in French Polynesia to begin his apprenticeship. For five years he learnt of the exotic fruits and spices available in the home of wonderful flavourings like the vanilla bean.

Having just returned from Tahiti and having my taste buds reminded of classics like tournedos Rossini, a beef fillet served with a chapeaux of truffle-studded pate presented on a crouton to avoid the blood of the beef mixing with the truffle flavoured jus, I was in need of a French fix.

The expected traditional dishes are on Frenchy’s menu but chef Baclet has many fascinating dishes that demonstrate his worldly experience.

Dishes on the a la carte menu all cost the same and at current prices around town are very reasonable. Any of the trio of potage is $5.90 and recognisable traditions surface with a French onion, a bouillabaisse and, of course, de jour.

All 13 entrees are $11.50 and a good test of all the chef’s skills would be feuilletes aux fruits de mer. This starter is a selection of seafood in a mornay-based sauce, served on his own puff pastry.

Main courses are $21.50 and the sauces are the feature of the 13 on offer. Desserts are $6.90. Extras like salad, fries and garlic bread add marginally to your account. One of the many menu options is the $35.90, four-course dinner of soup, entrée, main course and dessert. Available also is a $29.90 three-course set menu that changes weekly.

Expect sauces like the calvados apple sauce with pork, a ham and mushroom with veal, classics with beef cuts are the Bordeaux sauce – a red wine and butter mix, au poivre with dijon mustard, black and green peppercorns, cream and cognac, on grilled kangaroo fillets a shiraz, garlic and tomato mixture. The essence of the grand cuisine are the sauces and those at Frenchy’s have improved immeasurably.

Some of the memories of French Polynesia are in specials like a Caledonian fish soup flavoured with curry, a Tahitian ice-chilled fish salad marinated in fresh coconut milk, or a fillet of barramundi with a prawn soufflé with a coriander and coconut infusion on bok choi.

Frenchy’s always has been an everyman’s restaurant. If the two levels are opened, it is one very large room, but you don’t get that feeling. Certainly there is room for weddings and similar functions (perhaps divorce).

There is also an al fresco dining area where glimpses of the Swan River are possible, but the roar of the freeway is always with you out there. Tables are delightfully dressed in white cloths and the place presents well.

Of course this is a fully licensed dining room. The list is good, but can be enhanced by requesting something from Alain Goulet’s cellar. Like the food, wine and beer prices are reasonable. Take your community gourmet but only when it’s his buy.

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