Thursday, July 17, 2008


According to Wikepaedia libertine has come to mean one devoid of any restraints, particularly one who ignores or even spurns religious norms, accepted morals and forms of behaviour sanctioned by the larger society. Famous adherents included the Marquis de Sade, Casanova, Lord Byron and Jim Morrison, It has a strong association with the French and seems like a good name for a French restaurant prepared to be unrestraied and adventurous with its food.
Libertine, the restaurant, at 500 Victoria St. North Melbourne, flaunts a small footpath blackboard announcing Viva France with chalk written Liberty, Equality Fraternity announcing it's French connections.
The restaurant is described in this mornings Age by Dani Valent as " a gorgeous dining room: cosy and unashamedly French, with the requisite tasteful nude, mirrors, sumptuous tapestries and a wall lined with empty wine bottles, each like a diary entry of a good meal and a great time." I couldn't have said it better.
We were even more impressed with the attention we got from the staff and for once the other diners were exceptionally considerate maintaing conversations quietly. In the background Edith Piaf added still more to the extrmrly pleasing ambience.
The menu is interesting and we went for a special entree described as cabbage wrapped pork mousse in a bouillon. It was more like mince than mousse - perhaps I misheard. Regardless it was an interesting and would have been a good tasting dish, had not been so over salted, in an excellent bouillon. We also tried the grilled whole langoustines, truffle butter & waldorf salad (18.5) A small but extremely appealing entree. The light crunchy Waldorf especially good.
I resisted the temptation to have the slow braised red venison shank, shallot suet dumpling in favour of another special - pheasant cassoulet on a bed of borlotto beans and spinach with a home made bourdan sausage ($34.5)The pheasant, slices of breast, was very dry and not very distinguished and I thought the sausage was to homogenized. this is not a dish Iwould recommend.

The game bird for two was a liberal interpretation of duck a la orange ($70) The duck was drenched in honey and there was no flavour of orange. The whole bird was brought to the table before being carved and, on request we were also given the carcass to enjoy with some extra sauce. The duck was slightly undercooked and, unusually these days, very tough with very little 'ducky' taste.
A side dish of creamed spinach was a good choice if you like that sort of thing.
Soufflé au chocolat ($14.5) was pleasant but unexceptional and could have been sweeter and the quince tarte tatin, muscatel & vanilla parfait would have been better had the pastry base not beeen completely soft. The muscatels provided excellent contrast in the parfait

With a little help we settled on a very reasonably priced French Lafage shiras.
Libertine have a lunch special 2 courses + glass of wine, $29.50; (3 courses + glass of wine, $36.50)
has an exciting menu but I didn't find any of the dishes specially good
Score:13.5 /20

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