French Saloon is just off Little Bourke St (via Hardware Laneway) in the heart of Melbourne. When asking a waiter at one of the nearby restaurants for directions he laughs and says “you will need a ladder to get there.” A residential looking staircase, with no signage whatsoever, did the trick.
Chatting with our waitress on arrival we are told we are actually sitting in what was until quite recently someone’s apartment. An elderly woman rented there for many years before the apartment was sold. She’s a regular now at French Saloon. The split-level old white floor boarded loft apartment has been transformed into a simple but stylish restaurant space.
Bright red paint covers the high ceilings, a large zinc bar imported from France sits in the dining room that is now filled with timber tables and chairs. The space is well lit with a wall of old white square shaped hatched windows.
We discover the kitchen has been built in two shipping containers that have been lifted into the building by crane.
Up a couple of stairs in the next room is a private dining room that seats 28 – a great space if you have a group. On the other side of the entrance is also a small outdoor courtyard that’s very chic and French, perfect for an afternoon drink.
The menu screams great French bistro style food. To start we order a house made charcuterie plate ($18/29).
The pickled vegetables are to die for – crunchy with the perfect hit of vinegar, not too overpowering. The salami has a delicious pepper flavour and hints of fennel and the house made mustard was a great addition on top of a slice of fresh sourdough with smoky ham off the bone.
For mains I recommend the free range chicken with chestnuts, pumpkin and lardon ($36). The chicken has been sous-vide and the lardon adds a beautiful smokiness. I get some food envy looking at the duck special across the table. Both are very generous serves.
A side plate of hand cut chips ($11) definitely hit the spot with these dishes.
The dessert menu looks inviting and there’s an impressive selection of French and Italian cheese on offer but unfortunately we were just too full.
If I did have space I would have tried the sheep milk yogurt, poppy seed biscuit, mandarin and ginger granita ($14.5) or the fruit tart with clotted cream ($14.5)
French Saloon is a hidden gem in Melbourne. Retaining the features of the loft apartment in the dining area and even the quaint little courtyard, makes you feel at home. A great spot to sit back and enjoy some quality French bistro style food.
The final say
Standout dish – Definitely the house made charcuterie plate ($18/$29)
Positives – Great French bistro food, with a cosy, feel-at-home vibe
Negatives – Closed on weekends
Address – First Floor 380-384 Little Bourke St (via Hardware Lane) Melbourne
Opening Hours – Monday to Friday 12pm-12am
Closed Sat and Sun