Monday, 20 May 2013

PM24 - A Blend Like No Other

"Philippe Mouchel at 24 Russell Street" in case you were wondering is the meaning behind the name of this French restaurant which is part of George Calombaris's Made Establishment of Melbourne eateries. Head chef Philippe Mouchel has been at the helm of this French-inspired restaurant since 2010 and is located at the old Murasaki site for those that remember back to that bygone dining era. Mouchel was head chef at The Brasserie at Crown Casino before PM24 was launched. After his departure from The Brasserie, it became Bistro Guillaume after Guillaume Brahimi took over that restaurant for trivia purposes.

You experience a rustic French ambiance after entering the restaurant and are quickly greeted by the staff. A high ceiling, light colours and reminders that the chef has a cookbook for sale as it is on display at various strategic places confronts your senses at first along with the wonderful smell of the kitchen. This would prove to be my second extended dinner at PM24. I had every intention of writing a review after my first visit as I was impressed by the food, drink and service but the comprehensive French wine list got the best of me and I was barely in a state to get home and I did not remember all of the nuances from the previous experience. It was a pleasure to be returning again after only a couple of months and fortunately for those that read this blog, I left with my memory intact despite enjoying a few bottles of wine and cocktails this time around.

As I was entertaining someone from Sydney, there was no excuse not to run the whole gamut of not only the food menu but also start with aapĂ©ritif. I ordered a Kir Royal ($21) which is a French cocktail made with blackcurrant liqueur and champagne. Along with San Pellegrino water ($6) we were suitably hydrated when we placed the first of our food and wine orders. A bottle of 2011 Jamsheed Roussanne ($68) along with orders of sardines, snails and oysters which were all deemed suitable to start the evening off after previously enjoying beer at both the newly renovated Duke of Wellington and also Ponyfish Island. 

The tin of French vintage sardines ($18) was served open with a side of bread. The little fish are easily spread onto the bread, full of flavour and possessed both a beautiful texture and smell. I prefer French sardines over Spanish ones in general just because they are so easily manipulated. The Roussanne proved to be light, balanced and showed some citrus undertones and proved to be a good match for the first of our three starters.

Twelve oysters were delivered next. Six were Petite Claire ($4/each) and six were Rusty Wire ($5/each) which both varieties proving to be slightly acidic and salty with a mild taste. One of the Petite Claire oysters smelled a bit strange however the restaurant was happy to take it away and not charge us for it. The Roussane from Beechworth, Victoria, proved yet again to be a good match with the oysters and there was no regret ordering a local wine despite so many wonderful foreign vintages being available.

A tray of escargot - snails served in a garlic and parsley butter ($16.50) was the last of our starters. Snails are one of my favourite things to eat and the kitchen did not fail me. Served nearly sizzling filled with potential energy and at a temperature of 100c in a metal tray, I had to constrain my enthusiasm for the gastropod just so that I wouldn't scorch my mouth and take away my ability to taste the wine, which when paired with this garlic-laden mollusk was really nice. At one point the server poured a wine that belonged to another table into my dining companion's glass by accident, effectively making a new blend which he tasted and did not like at all. The glass was quickly replaced and a new pour of our Roussane was enjoyed. Mistakes do happen.

Having vacated the bottle of Roussane, we moved on to a Pinot Noir next. A 2005 Domaine Michel Lafarge Volnay ($245) which although was complex and meaty, which proved to be a good match for our next dish, the steak tartare ($35.00) could have used a few more years aging in the bottle. The sommelier was indifferent as to whether this vintage should be decanted so I am now intrigued as to how much the wine would have changed if it was allowed to open up. For a pinot it was a good wine though and when matched with the raw hand diced beef wagyu which I scooped up using pommes frites made for a good bridge and an opportunity to turn up the conversation a notch. I would have enjoyed the tartare a bit more if it was spicier or served with a tabasco sauce but that is just a personal preference

As our pleasant conversation seemed to draw out, so did the patience of the kitchen so we were quizzed that if we wanted to order one of the made to order special rotisserie meats, either the chicken or the lamb. After being prodded we opted for the lamb mainly because we had a half a bottle of pinot to enjoy still. The rotisserie rack of lamb was delivered about thirty minutes later with vegetables ($39.50) and was simply beautiful. My eyes and nose loved it but not as much as my mouth. A perfect medium-rare with flavours that were only enhanced by the wine and vice-versa paired with the vegetables proved to be a hardy yet beautiful course.The lamb and chicken are considered signature dishes and for good reason that I discovered.

Finishing off the evening with a Hendricks gin and tonic ($13) was a nice way to digest a great meal and get the courage to take on the elements on the wild and wanton Melbourne streets. We ended up being the last ones in the restaurant and after four hours of eating and drinking, we bid everyone a fond farewell and retreated to the Croft Institute for cocktails. I enjoyed my second trip to PM24 more than my first but that is probably because I remember the whole experience. There were a few technical difficulties with service but nothing that caused alarm where the quality of the food in general supersedes any brief disappointment that was experienced with the noisome oyster or the special wine blend.

PM24 was awarded one chefs hat in the 2012/2013 The Age Good Food Guide.

PM24, Russell Street, Melbourne

24 Russell Street, Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9207 7424
My Rating: 15/20
Service: 3/5
Ambiance: 4/5
Quality: 4/5
Value For Money: 4/5

Twitter: @epicurean3006
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com

At the time of this post, 87% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon also like PM24.

PM24 on Urbanspoon