TA­BLES Paris match

Chris­tine McCabe gets a taste of France at Ade­laide’s Bistro Dom

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Indulgence -

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.

Check­list

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

Pic­ture: Kelly Barnes

Sweet treats: Owner Do­minika Johnston serves cof­fee and de­li­cious desserts

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