Philippe Mouchel has been cooking some of the best French food Melbourne has enjoyed for probably more years than he’d care to admit.

A protege of the legendary Paul Bocuse, Mouchel came to Australia in the early 1990s to spearhead the famous chef’s eponymous fine dining establishment in what was the Daimaru department store.

Daimaru is no more, having been swallowed up by the Melbourne Central shopping centre and, sadly, the Paul Bocuse restaurant also closed down. That holds special memories for Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband who had their first fine dining experience together there nearly, ahem, 20 years ago – and a magical night it was.

Mouchel was head chef for Paul Bocuse in Lyon and other cities around the world, but has spent most of his recent years between Australia and Japan. Melbourne seems to have a particular hold on him. His last three ventures have been in what Greedy Girl considers the capital of Australian gastronomy (take that, Sydney).

Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband hadn’t sampled his cuisine since PM24 restaurant closed in Russell Street some time back. Earlier this year, gluttonous husband attended the chef’s Masterclass as part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. He came away raving about Mouchel’s enthusiasm to impart his cooking know how.

In NYC just recently, we also caught up with the chef’s son, Nic, who was the dining room manager at The NoMad. We first met him when he bounded up to our table on our NYC visit back in 2014 and Aussie accents filled the room.

On our last visit, we were lucky enough to catch him for a drink inside the NoMad’s splendid Library where he gave us more amazing tips on where to eat in other cities on our US tour. He’d also alerted us to the imminent opening of his father’s new restaurant in Melbourne, Philippe.

And so, when Philippe Mouchel came up to greet us at dinner, we piped up that we knew Nic. He said that he already knew – his son had rang from NYC to let the great chef know we’d be coming in for dinner. It was such a lovely touch; true hospitality still exists in the world.

The menu at Philippe is reasonably compact but covers off some of the great French classics – with a few twists. Ordering a beer, and a glass of Pinot Gris from Shadowfax in the Macedon Ranges, we opted to share a starter, followed by a main course each and then a dessert.

First up was the pate en croute – a very light terrine with foie gras, studded with pistachios and mushrooms and served with pickled vegetables. Surrounded by crisp brioche pastry, this was a delightful dish and very easy to share. The pickled vegetables were a great foil for the terrine, especially the cornichons. With the vinegary tang of the vegetables though, the flavour of the little dots of sticky emulsion on the side were lost. Still, a very nice plate of food.

Best French food Melbourne Philippe

Pate en croute

We moved to our main courses. When reading the menu online before our visit, Greedy Girl knew what gluttonous husband would order – and he did. He took the braised beef cheek “Carbonnade” (a traditional type of stew) with carrot and a bacon emulsion. What the menu didn’t tell you was the presence of a sugar disc topping one of the pieces of meat. It was inspired, giving just a touch of sweetness to the dish. The purple carrots also looked fantastic on the plate. While Greedy Girl isn’t a fan of the texture of this style of meat, she couldn’t argue with the flavour. It was exceptionally good.

Best French food Melbourne Philippe

Braised beef cheek

Greedy Girl took the Wagyu rump cap steak, with bearnaise sauce, broccoli and a potato fondant. Happily, the waiter placed a separate large ramekin of the luscious sauce on the table next to her plate. Asking for the meat to be done medium rare, she was very pleased with the result. It was tender and juicy with a lovely charred crust. The bearnaise was superb – just enough tang, beautifully balanced. The potato fondant, while small, had a crispy exterior and was perfectly seasoned. The only thing she didn’t enjoy was some purée piped into a small mound next to the broccoli – it tasted bitter.

Best French food Melbourne Philippe

Wagyu steak with bearnaise

We moved on to dessert, opting for the chocolate fondant pictured at the top of this post. This was made with Michel Cluizel chocolate from Normandy. Given the chef also hails from Normandy, sourcing this chocolate isn’t not too surprising. This was combined with flavours of Morello cherry and it worked a treat.

Of course the test of any fondant is whether it’s still gooey in the middle. Greedy Girl was delighted to slice through the crust to watch the liquid gold, er, chocolate ooze out. It was a triumph. The fondant wasn’t overly sweet and the crust was amazingly crisp, almost biscuity, while the soft, unctuous centre remained. Many things are easy to cook but hard to get exactly right – this was just about perfect.

And we were done. We sipped what was left of our drinks, paid the bill and headed for the door. This was just a week since the restaurant officially opened and the dining floor was very busy. We looked enviously towards the open kitchen and two seats overlooking all the action – if you like a floor show with your food, this is something to request when you book.

Philippe’s address is nominally 115 Collins Street, but it’s half way down George Parade, a laneway running between Collins and Flinders Lane. The site has been home to a number of top chefs, including middle-eastern specialist Greg Malouf, as well as Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen concept. Greedy Girl hopes this incarnation will have a long tenure.


115 Collins Street, Melbourne (enter in George Parade)
Philippe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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