Nestled below Hotel Realm is Canberra’s answer to modern French cuisine at its finest. The golden ‘B’ on the floor as you enter the open space signals the luxurious feel and decadent flavours of Buvette Bistro & Wine Bar.
With plush cream leather seats, podium seating toward the rear and outdoor alfresco dining around the restaurant’s edge, it is clear that this is a venue to enjoy at any time of the day.
After only opening its doors in early 2016, Buvette has already secured its place on the local and national hospitality stage.
“Last year we received a number of awards, including Best New Restaurant in the 2016 ACT Savour Australia Restaurant & Catering Hostplus Awards for Excellence, which was amazing because these awards don’t usually go to venues that are attached to hotels,” says Restaurant and Beverage Manager Thomas Craigie.
“We have created a strong identity for ourselves here with a modern twist on French cuisine and one of the most extensive wine lists in Canberra, so much so that last year we were awarded two goblets by Gourmet Traveler.
“It’s fantastic to be recognised nationally with this award, as some people on the list have been trading for more than 20 years and we managed to achieve this in our first 8 months.”
With the launch of a brand-new menu it only seemed fitting that we sit down to sample the fruits of Executive Chef Fabien Wagnon’s inspiration, alongside a cheeky cocktail or two.
Utilising Chef Fabien’s favourite cooking method is the Salmon Confit, a dish that combines the delicate flavour of the fish and the melt-in-your-mouth cooking method of confit in duck fat. This method enhances the richness of the flavour and is contrasted by a fresh side of crisp fennel, cucumber, radish and a dash of crème fraiche.
“I love to work with duck fat, however we give our diners the option to have their dish cooked in olive oil to suit special dietary requirements. We try to please everyone as much as we can,” says Chef Fabien.
Although the menu features modern interpretations of classic French cuisine, it is great to see some old favourites like the Beef Tartare among the entrees. This delicious classic combines a fine cut of beef combined with a traditional mix of herbs including garlic and rosemary, with a quail egg placed atop the dish with house made crackers and pickled onions. The dish is best eaten with a side of charred sourdough to bring out the onion in the blue patty with a smear of the creamy rich flavour of the quail egg.
Chef Fabien’s new menu has been inspired by family recipes, traditional flavours and new, exciting cooking techniques – and nothing exemplifies all three better than our next dish, Whole Cowra Lamb Shoulder Périgourdine.
“The slow-cooked lamb used to be our Sunday lunch. However, flavours and inspiration for this menu comes from things I have tried and techniques I have picked up and the traditional flavours of home,” he adds.
Full of the flavours of France, this gorgeous shoulder of lamb is perfectly seasoned and covered generously with the sweet taste of confit garlic. Adding to the decadence of the dish is a sinfully smooth and creamy pomme purée that can easily be eaten in a bowl itself! Drenched in a generous slashing of cooking jus this dish is one for the ages as the 15-hour slow-cooked lamb falls from the bone and simply melts in your mouth.
A French menu would not be complete without the addition of a good Bouillabaisse. Without deviating away from the traditional dish too much, Buvette’s version is hearty and combines the very best snapper, king prawn, squid, mussels and rouille in a rich vegetable broth that can be sopped up with a side of charred sour dough. Delicious.
As duck is one of Chef Fabien’s favourite ingredients to work with, it would be hard to produce a menu without it being the star of a dish. Simply named the Pan-fried Duck Breast, this dish combines the sweetness of grilled peaches and a sour cherry jus with the rich flavour of the juicy duck and creamy potato side, pommes anna – best described as fine dining’s version of a potato bake.
After a decadent menu of traditional French flavour with a modern twist, it was fantastic to sit back and enjoy the fresh dessert Cardamom Floating Island. Acting as a palate cleanser, this desert combines the elements of the sweet poached pineapple, vanilla ice-cream, lychees, mango, raspberry, a thin crisp (similar to a brandy snap) and the subtle taste of cardamom to lift the dish and provide the perfect end to a menu of pure indulgence.
Perusing through the Buvette menu after sampling a number of the dishes, we must also give an honorable mention the fresh favourite, Salade Niçois;, Wagu Beef Bourguinon, a modern take on a deconstructed; the perfectly cooked Châteaubriand eye fillet; and the decadent Chocolate Fondant.
With great service and even better food, Buvette is a dining experience like no other that welcomes patrons from all walks of life.
“I want people to leave Buvette knowing at least one of the waiter’s names and knowing that they will be able to come back and experience a consistent high level of service and delicious French cuisine,” says Thomas.