French con­nec­tion

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE -

IN AN ar­ti­cle a few years ago ti­tled ‘‘ Per­fect Plates – the 50 best dishes in Aus­tralia’’, com­piled by res­tau­rant re­view­ers around the coun­try, al­most half the dishes cho­sen were what might be called retro com­fort- food, the sorts of dishes found in sauce- stained, dog- eared cook­books as those from the likes of Neil Perry, Fer­ran Adria, Tet­suya Wakuda and David Thomp­son.

The list was a timely re­minder that good food re­mains good food what­ever the mo­ment’s fash­ion.

It also ex­plains why, 20 years af­ter open­ing, Julie and Jean- Claude Ri­val’s Le Proven­cal in South Ho­bart is as pop­u­lar to­day as it has ever been.

‘‘ We’ve never tried to be fash­ion­able or the cut­ting- edge best. We just want to pro­vide re­li­able and con­sis­tently good food that pleases peo­ple,’’ Julie said.

What has pleased count­less din­ers over the years are ex­em­plary ren­di­tions of the French clas­sics. Noth­ing flashy, no su­per­flu­ous gar­nishes, just qual­ity, con­sis­tency and a sim­plic­ity of prepa­ra­tion and pre­sen­ta­tion that a chef can only get away with if given ex­pert tech­nique and re­fined taste.

As much as such cur­rent- menu items as soupe a l’oignon, sub­tly flavoured with lo­vage champignons a la grecque, ligh­tas- air chicken quenelles, ter­rine de cam­pagne, ma­gret de ca­nard and filet de porc au poivre vert might con­jure up mem­o­ries of Paris’ Latin Quar­ter, it’s the sauces that de­fine the res­tau­rant – a de­li­ciously rich grape and brandy sauce with the chicken livers, an im­pec­ca­ble basil cream sauce with the quenelles and, of course, the real- deal bear­naise sauce with grilled fil­let steak that pa­trons won’t al­low to be taken off.

They’re a well- worn litany from the French culi­nary reper­toire, sel­dom seen to­day and rarely done bet­ter than here.

And if, like a foodie cou­ple dis­mis­sively said re­cently ‘‘ We no longer do sauces, they are soooo yes­ter­day’’, then it’s good to re­mem­ber Le Pro­cope in Paris. Open since 1686, it fed the French rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies and has catered to France’s cul­tural, artis­tic, po­lit­i­cal and demi­monde no­ta­bles since. It still serves bear­naise sauce with its bro­chette de boeuf.

I don’t know how long a res­tau­rant has to be around in Tas­ma­nia be­fore it qual­i­fies to be called an in­sti­tu­tion. But, for its many loyal din­ers, Le Proven­cal must come close.

TRA­DI­TIONAL TASTES: Julie and Jean- Claude Ri­val pro­vide con­sis­tently good food. Pic­ture: RICHARD JUPE

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