The French Milk Bar Brunswick is a slice of France that’s opened up just off Lygon Street. The City Lane has had an eye on this place ever since the outdoor signage and covered-up windows indicated that something was happening on the site several months ago. As you’d expect, we were keen on seeing if it was worth the wait.
Owners Anthony Humphries and Lisa Malaspina have been inspired by classic French cuisine and technique and are aiming to bring real French food to the people of Melbourne.
French food in Melbourne tends to mean fine dining and Humphries and Malaspina want to change this perception of French food by serving accessible, tasty, rustic food – think of the French bouchon, with its focus on simple food and a convivial atmosphere.
The menu is broadly split into three sections – light meals, main meals and desserts. It’s not a fixed menu and will change on a regular basis to take advantage of fresh, seasonal produce. Almost everything on the menu is prepared on site, from scratch. Think of food like smoked sausages, rillette, terrine, confit duck and coq au vin – which all appear on the small, focused menu. There is also bread and a rotating range of cakes and pastries on offer at the counter, either to eat in or take away.
On the topic of bread, we were brought a few slices with some butter while waiting for the dishes we ordered to arrive. The bread was springy, moist and very tasty – in fact by the time our food arrived we had already polished off the bread – thankfully we were offered more!
Coffee was perfectly acceptable. Not an overly complex blend, but tasty and something that would satisfy most.
The signature charcuterie plate featured pate, terrine, rillettes, duck prosciutto and black pudding served with crostini, a preserve and olive tapeade. Everything on this plate tasted amazing. The pate was smooth and velvety and duck prosciutto, which is something we haven’t seen before, was full flavoured and fatty, in a very good way. If you want a good sample of some of the things that are being produced at the French Milk Bar, this is the dish to order. Also be aware that this is definitely one to share.
This was a classic Bouillabaisse with, in true Marseilles style, a side serving of rouille which, for those who aren’t aware, is a garlic saffron mayonnaise served with the soup on olive oil toasted bread. This was a very flavoursome dish – it had a strong fishy smell which thankfully did not translate to the taste, which was very well balanced with the Provençal herbs in the soup base – fennel, saffron, thyme and bay.
As well as the food that is prepared during the day, the French Milk Bar also offers a range of products to purchase and take home, including preserves, sauces and infused vinaigrettes.
We spoke to Humphries and Malaspina about their plans for the French Milk Bar and there are some exciting developments in the works. They unfortunately had to put their plans on selling house cured meats and charcuterie in the same vein as a deli on hold due to local council red tape (the impressive fridge you see behind the counter – that was supposed to have a variety of meats in it). In the immediate future there are plans to open later for dinner and, once their liquor license is approved, to serve alcohol.
We were really impressed by the French Milk Bar and are happy to report without reservation that it was worth the wait. It’s the first venture from Humphries and Malaspina, and their passion for the project is very evident. The food is great, the atmosphere welcoming and the future plans exciting.
When we were last in France, we were impressed by the direction of cooking in the country, with venues such as le Comptoir de Realis and Les Cocottes eschewing the stuffiness and rules of French fine dining to serve simple French food with the occasional modern and innovative twist – the type of food that French people actually eat at home with some added zhoosh. The French Milk Bar is the first place we’ve eaten at in Australia that’s brought us right back to those Paris dining experiences. Nous sommes impressionnés!