Sofia reviews: France-Soir at home
In a sentence: Melbourne’s most iconic French restaurant at home, est. 1986
The damage: entrees $14 to $35, mains $35 to $59
Top tip: bisque-drenched lobster rolls to go every Sunday until sold out
#EatCuriously: try andouillette parisienne, sausage made from pork intestine
Quench your thirst: cocktails, champagne, and local and French wines available
If you like this: also try Philippe’s A La Maison’s offering, pick up from the CBD
“Screw it, I’m splurging,” I thought to myself last Friday when deciding what to order for dinner.
It felt like an especially tough week in Melbourne – soaring case numbers, the shock of daylight savings and a general air of defeatism. So I decided to do something I knew would make me feel better: eat, and eat well.
My usual comfort foods of spicy egg noodles and cheesy pasta had already been on high rotation, so I decided to splash out on France-Soir with one rule: don’t hold back. I ordered 10 dishes between two and food came to a little more than $100 per head, which in hindsight is very reasonable considering there are restaurants selling two-person home degustations with fewer dishes, which you also have to finish off – for around the same price.
I ordered the morning of, arranging hot food pick-up at 6pm. You can also order from the cold menu and follow the instructions to replicate the experience at home. On Friday night I pulled up in a parking spot right out the front, scanned the QR code and was holding my order within five minutes.
Even with the tables and chairs pushed to the side of the empty restaurant, I still felt the pull to sit down at one of those white tablecloths, or at least up at the bar, where owner Jean-Paul Prunetti was perching with his phone. When I turned to leave, the handsome young waiter came around to open the door on my way out. Even in lockdown, it’s still so quintessentially France-Soir.
The French fare travels immaculately, thanks in large part to the glass jars and containers in which most of the food is packaged. For each vessel you return, you get a dollar in cash. There was already wine at home, but I ordered pastis to me mettre dans l’ambiance (set the mood). That said, there are bottles with prices scribbled on them if you want to pick something ad-hoc when you’re there. Alternatively, you can pre-order with your meal, whether a 2020 Mac Forbes Yarra Valley Chardonnay for $30, or a premier cru bottle from Burgundy for $300-plus.
We divided our food into four courses. To start, a whole baguette and 25 grams of Le Conquerant salted French butter came to $7.50, and would have ruined dinner if we had eaten the whole thing. It would have been rude not to start with oysters, too ($3 each), shucked to order with lemon wedges and a small container of raspberry vinegar.
Next, a single serve of soupe à l oignon was plenty for two ($15.50). After sitting for half an hour it was a little on the cool side, but it wasn’t anything a microwave couldn’t fix (and didn’t ruin). The snails also came in a jar, de-shelled and soaking in warm, herby oil loaded with garlic ($19). They were brilliant on the baguette, though I would have preferred them still in the shells to recreate the theatre at home.
When I said I didn’t hold back, I meant it. Our third course featured France-Soir’s famous steak tartare ($35 for a starter size with salad and fries) and a slab of foie gras ($35). At this point we were full, but not even close to finished.
Our mains consisted of a 280-gram filet de bœuf ($41), which we left in the oven at 100°C to keep warm, along with the fries from the steak tartare and andouillette parisienne ($23), Paris’ stinky sausage made from pork intestines. The oven trick worked and the steak was still perfectly cooked – pink in the middle and even richer drenched in sauce bordelaise, made with shallots, red wine and chunks of bone marrow (again, great on the baguette). We made a weak attempt to balance out all that meat with a butter lettuce salad.
Thank goodness I only ordered one chocolate mousse to share for dessert ($12.50).
11-13 Toorak Road, South Yarra
03 9866 8569
Open for takeaway Thursday to Saturday from 4pm to 8.30pm.
Delivery (cold food) Friday and Saturday between 10am and 1pm (must order before noon the day prior, minimum spend $80 and delivery radius is up to 50km from the shop in some directions and going as far as Preston, Mentone, Vermont and Glen Waverley.