Archive for the 'Restaurant Talk' Category

Paying to BYO in Restaurants

April 22nd, 2013

Firstly I should tell you that if you turned up at a European restaurant clutching your own wine, they would be astonished — after all restaurants make their living from selling wine and food.  However, it has been customary in Australia to do so for many years.  And Baguette allows BYO wine Monday to Thursday, with a corkage charge of $6.80 per person.  Now this might seem like a hefty charge to some, but if you bring a good bottle of wine to Baguette and we charge you (and your dining companion) $13.60 to serve it —  you will save money on what we would have had to charge you, if it was on our List.  If you bring a ‘bin bargain’ that cost you $5, it’s probably not the same value for money.

A note here:  Restaurants are charged much more (wholesale) for the wines they buy, than hotel liquor shops.  We simply don’t have the buying power, so at times wines cost less for us  to buy them retail through a liquor shop, than it costs us through the wholesaler.

Master of Wine, Peter Scudamore-Smith calculated some years ago that it costs better restaurants $8.50 per person  when we serve a customer their own wine.  How you say?  Well, he included things like labour (currently running at over 40% of our sales), wine buckets, ice (an ice machine costs $5000), good glassware (plus breakages).  It also has to be considered that licensed restaurants have already outlayed say $60,000 on wine purchases plus rent on their wine cellar space.

Why Should I Pay Extra for Bread in a Restaurant?

April 22nd, 2013

Restaurant critics like John Lethlean are affronted (and protest loudly) when Australian restaurants charge extra for bread.  Certainly in Europe it is almost always included.  The reality is that all restaurants charge for bread (and butter or oil) — with very small profit margins we simply cannot  give it away.  The difference is whether we include it in the price of the entree/main courses or price it as an extra.  At Baguette we buy French artisan bread from Chouquette at New Farm and serve it with good quality butter.  We decided that, as many people don’t eat bread these days because of the carb thing, we would not force them to pay for others by increasing the cost of all our main courses.  Sorry John …

Are Kids Welcome in Restaurants?

April 22nd, 2013

A friend told me this story:  Some years ago in Brisbane she wanted to take her daughter to a Cleveland restaurant for her birthday, but was told that they didn’t allow children under 12 years.  Despite protestations that the 10 year old girl was very well behaved and had been to many restaurants, they were unmoved.

When Francis and I came to Brisbane you certainly got the feeling that children were often unwelcome in restaurants (something you would never find in France).  So we decided that we would actively encourage parents to dine with their children at Baguette.  For 25 years we only charged $1 per year for a main course, dessert and soft drink — it is now $1.50 per year.  Many of our regulars will attest to fond memories of special family time at our restaurant — where it is NOT a 10 minutes dining experience eating with your fingers,  elbows on the table!  We have been delighted to see, over the years, that many of these children grew up and now bring their own kids to Baguette … at one point 4 generations of the Hall family dined with us.

Pop Up Restaurant in Brisbane

October 6th, 2012

Jessica Pugh (David Pugh’s daughter – Restaurant Two) has given me the ‘heads up’ about a secret pop up restaurant that two of their bright young chefs are doing.  (I blogged about this worldwide phenomena a couple of years ago, so it’s good to hear that finally there’s some activity in Brisbane.)   Shane Rogan and Tom Newman are young, very ambitious chefs who have already worked at Michelin starred restaurants and plan to have their own one day.  Shane says:  ‘The Gourmet Project is an idea to give an opportunity for inspired chefs to create a menu of their desire. To push the boundaries of food, to be able to create a menu which would not normally be served in a restaurant.’

5 courses for a small group of diners in a secret location and a secret menu.   The tickets for the first event are not being offered publicly and are by Invitation Only.  So if you have $130 and are interested email:


Foie gras doughnut … only in America

July 2nd, 2012

It costs $US8 and Umamicatessen (that says it all doesn’t it?) injects jam into one side of the doughnut and foie gras mousse in the other, then rolls it in peanuts after frying.  The mind boggles …

California banned foie gras sales last week and there has been a frenzy of final foie gras feasts, fairy floss, cheesecakes, waffles and toffee.  A celebrated Los Angeles restaurant, Providence, will leave a gap on the menu in memory of the “dearly departed”. Chefs are lobbying the government to rescind the ban.  One chef is checking with his lawyers to see if he can give away — rather than sell — a serving of foie gras, with a $US20 salad.  Others may turn to setting up “duckeasies” where diner can order foie gras using certain code words.

Francis and I have visited a foie gras farm in the Dordogne in France and photographed this goose being force fed.  It wasn’t pleasant (and the smell in the shed cannot be described!) but we are told that the ducks and geese spend 16 weeks living the life of Riley, in free range conditions, and only 8 days at the end of it all in the shed being force fed.  Plus ducks and geese do not have our gag reflex, they swallow fish in one gulp, for example.

Compare that to the awfulness  battery chickens must endure all their short lives.

At Baguette we have no intention of removing the occasional dish containing foie gras.  It is not produced in Australia of course, and the French will never ban it … it simply tastes too good, and is part of their culinary tradition.

Bistrot Bruno Loubet a hit in London

August 5th, 2011

Our previous Executive Chef Bruno Loubet,  returned to London in 2009.  His arrival heralded keen interest as he had made his reputation in London in the 1980s and 1990s, gaining his own Michelin star at the age of 29 years.  His restaurant, in the hip boutique hotel called the Zetter, has been a success from the start.  And he has won significant awards already.

Recently we stayed with Bruno and his wife Catherine at their house in Fulham, and it was lovely catching up with them.  We had a wonderful meal at Bistrot Bruno Loubet and here are a couple of the dishes sampled:  Suckling Pig and English strawberries, lemon marshmallow and green peppercorn ice cream.

Their life in London seems very glamorous compared to Brisbane, but they still love Australia and intend to retire here.

If you are visiting London, drop in and say hello to Bruno (his kitchen is totally open to the restaurant).  But make a booking because it is hard to get in.  For menus go to:

Dinner at The Mandarin

July 15th, 2011

It’s hard not to be impressed with Heston Blumenthal’s new London restaurant Dinner … an $8million fitout will do that.  Housed in the venerable Mandarin Hotel this is definitely ‘Restaurant as Theatre’.  We were visiting Bruno Loubet and wife Catherine, and despite Dinner being booked out 3 months in advance, Catherine pulled some strings and suddenly there we were on a Saturday night.  It was very glam and we were made to feel quite special, with complimentary Champagne and extra dishes — Bruno’s name on the booking worked wonders — poor guy could not be with us as he was beavering away at his own restaurant, Bistrot Bruno Loubet .

The premis for Dinner is Blumenthal’s interest in modernising medieval English recipes, so the mandarin entree here is actually chicken liver parfait encased in mandarin jelly, and called Meat Fruit.

Hard to see where the 8 mill went as the decor is tasteful but not over the top. However, the giant clock “pasted” onto the glass kitchen walls,which drives an open-fired rotisserie … was pretty amazing.  The Loubet’s 13yr old daughter Chloe dined with us.  Heston asked if she would like to visit his Laboratory.  That’s a definite YES!  By the way we thought the prices at Mandarin were not over the top, and definitely value for money.

To see the full menu go to:

Sharing a secret?

April 15th, 2011

David Pugh (owner chef of one of Brisbane’s foremost restaurants Restaurant Two) and Francis Domenech (Baguette) deep in conversation at a recent Queensland Winter Produce Showcase at Restaurant Two.  David used to be Head Chef at Baguette many eons ago.

These produce Showcases are held regularly by DEEDI a government department that encourages development and innovation.  Small producers of all sorts of fascinating fruits, olives, wines, cider, seafood etc can display their wares for restaurateurs and the food media.

Is cider the new rosé

April 13th, 2011

Where did this sudden interest in cider come from?  Was it a spontaneous groundswell from the drinking public bored with the current “flavours of the month” — or a clever PR campaign?  Never mind, it’s happened.  Scott Durietz, our sommelier at Baguette Bistrot+Bar, has been having fun tasting the now numerous ciders available and researching why some are really worth trying … and some are, well, just lolly water.

Some ciders are made with fruit concentrate and what else?  Whilst the good stuff is made from fresh juice and naturally fermented to produce a slight fizz.  Anyway Scott has done all the hard work and you can now sample a: 

Flight of 4 Ciders in the bar at Baguette for $23

Anneville cidre comes from Normandy in France, is semi-dry and has enough acidity to finish cleanly.  It’s got full apple aroma and only 2% alcohol by volume. It’s made from a single apple variety, Binet Rouge.

Manoir du Kinkiz in another French cidre from Brittany and is 5.5% alcohol.  It is the most complex of the four offerings.  Although semi-sweet, the combination of bitter-sweet and sharps allows it to be matched with weighty food. Notable feature is the barnyard aspect of the nose and Roquefort like character of the finish.

* The other two are Australian ciders, both from Bress — a winery/cidery in Harcourt Valley which is an old apple growing area just north of Melbourne.  Adam Marks the cider-maker is a Francophile;  hence the French chicken on his label.   His sweet style (great with desserts)  he calls Bon Bon and it is made from pink lady apples and perry (pear cider).  His dry style is called Bress Harcourt Valley Cider Brut.  They are both 10% alcohol, similar to wine.

So come to Baguette and try these ciders.  Scotty would love to chat with you about them.  Also in June we will be having 2 weeks of a Suckling Pig and Cider Menu.  Cider can be great with food!

What sort of restaurant are you looking for?

March 13th, 2011

In Brisbane there is an incredible variety of restaurants, food  and decor styles. 

Over the years we have found that what we want to eat in a restaurant, and the style of that establishment has radically changed.  For many years we went to France on pilgrimages to Michelen starred restaurants, delighting in the precision of the food, the formality of the exquisite settings and the whole experience.  Now we prefer more casual settings (with personality) and tasty ‘real’  food that highlights the produce.  (I am a fan of Rick Stein for that reason.)

But what do you look for?  Do Degustation menus turn you on?  Are you interested in molecular cooking (a la Heston Blumenthal) where chefs experiment with changing the structure of the food?  Do you go for a particular nationality of cuisine?  Is wine an important part of the restaurant experience for you?  Does the service matter?

This information is really interesting for restaurateurs, some of whom are dedicated to serving their customers only what they like, and others who try to gauge what customers are into.  Of course there are always fads and fashions, but looking beyond that what style of restaurant will you go to next?

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