TABLES Paris match
Christine McCabe gets a taste of France at Adelaide’s Bistro Dom
VISITORS to Adelaide are unlikely to stumble across Waymouth Street in their travels, lost as it is somewhere between the North Terrace cultural precinct and the Central Market-Gouger Street culinary enclave. They’re even less likely to find Bistro Dom. It’s a holein-the-wall eatery between a convenience store and recently defunct bar opposite TheAdvertiser’s office on a revamped Waymouth commercial thoroughfare that is attracting a growing number of restaurateurs.
Ben and Dominika Johnston opened their petite eatery 12 months ago and the savvy decor references eight years spent in Paris where, for a time, Ben ran the Aussie-linked Woolloomooloo restaurant.
At Bistro Dom, the long, thin room is more railway carriage than restaurant. Down one wall runs a wooden bench against which are set a line of traditional brasslegged bistro tables and bentwood chairs.
Above the bench, a battalion of gilt mirrors reflects a series of moody oil paintings on the opposite wall. The effect is similar to those infuriating magic eye autostereograms. At first glance all I can see are artful splodges of black and brown, but by squinting, and after a pinot noir or two, poplar trees, a Parisian street, even a chateau appear to hover above the canvas.
A cosy European ambience is evident the moment you open the front door and are greeted by a long table set with home-baked bread and a tempting array of tarts. Chef Andrew Davies, who opened the well-loved d’Arrys Verandah in McLaren Vale in 1996, returns to the restaurant scene after stints in film catering and baking wood-fired bread in the Barossa.
A lively buzz reverberates around the small space; the clanging of pots and pans can be heard from the kitchen tucked behind a slatted wooden wall and an old bench stacked with bottles of wine. Tables are set with linen napkins and menus handwritten on brown paper.
We’re running late — it’s almost 2pm — but as this is a lunch-only establishment the kitchen is open almost until stumps and the well-balanced, weekly-changing bistro menu provides for all contingencies.
Popular with the arts and media crowd, this is the perfect place for a quick coffee, a 3pm onion tart washed down with a restorative glass of chilled Adelaide Hills sauvignon blanc or (and it has been known) a glass of pinot accompanied by nothing more than a homebaked baguette smeared with butter.
A plate of Davies’s delicious bread arrives the moment we sit, accompanied by a small bowl of Willunga olive oil made by Ben Johnston’s dad.
The wine list reflects Ben’s preference for coolclimate, food-friendly wines with softer tannins and rounder flavours; he recommends a glass of 2005 Whisson Lake Pinot Noir from the Adelaide Hills ($10) and a 2008 Torzi Matthews Eden Valley Riesling ($10).
We start with a salad of seared coriander tuna with creamed horseradish ($19.90), the sauce dotted with tiny cubes of potato, and an excellent blue cheese souffle with a crisp walnut, apple and rocket salad ($17.90).
The mains selection is meat oriented so husband-ona-diet settles for the fish of the day: pan-fried barramundi served on a speck and shallot risotto with a bright green pea puree lassoing the lot ($29.90).
Scallop and crab tortellini with crab bouillon ($19.90)
Roasted duck breast and confit leg croquette with caramelised witlof ($29.90)
Wagyu beef steak, dauphinoise potatoes and bearnaise sauce ($29.90)
Belgian chocolate fondant tart with coffee ice cream ($9.80)
My rare beef salad ($18.90) is a substantial dish, a tumble of leaves and slow-roasted tomatoes, peppers, aubergine, beans and asparagus served with a large tapenade-smeared crouton. A creamy, egg-yellow mayonnaise is perfect, and oh-so-French, with the thinly sliced pink beef.
Three o’clock rolls around with remarkable alacrity and although stuffed to the gills I can’t resist a vanilla creme brulee ($9.80) served in a shallow dish with a thick, golden crust and accompanied by two tiny scoops of ice cream.
Perhaps it’s the cosy dimensions, perhaps the excellent service (with Ben and Dominika generally working the floor, catering to a large number of regulars whose food and wine predilections they know off pat) that encourages such a relaxing mood.
One doesn’t even mind the eccentric loo set up. The bonsai-sized nature of the establishment leaves no space in the restaurant proper so one has to pop next door, into an elevator and up one floor to a gleaming whitetiled array of public conveniences.
Loo shenanigans aside, Bistro Dom is a delightful luncheon spot, small but perfectly formed, and so popular they’ve finally responded to requests to open for dinner one night a week. The feel might be Parisian but this restaurant has earned itself a home at the very heart of the burgeoning Waymouth Street community. All Tables visits are unannounced and meals paid for.
Bistro Dom 27 Waymouth St, Adelaide. (08) 8231 7000; www.bistrodom.com.au. Open: Breakfast and lunch, Monday-Friday (7am5pm). From yesterday, open for dinner Fridays (bookings recommended). Cost: Entrees, $17.90-$19.90; mains, $17.90-$29.90; desserts, $9.80. Entree and main or main and dessert, $39. Drink: Smooth, cool-climate wines from home and abroad: Adelaide Hills, Eden Valley, Mornington, Marlborough and the Rhone. Reason to return: To imagine, just for a moment, I might be in Paris and to nab another loaf of that delicious bread.
Euro star: There’s a cosy atmosphere at tiny Bistro Dom, a thriving eatery in Waymouth Street, Adelaide
Sweet treats: Owner Dominika Johnston serves coffee and delicious desserts