Sunday, 6 January 2008

La Belle Epoque

La Belle Epoque is a recent addition to the food scene at Emporium in the Valley.

Personally, I've never been that impressed by the food on offer at Emporium (other than Sirianni's) so its a welcome addition as far as I'm concerned.

Let's start with the decor. This place looks fantastic. If you're looking for an over the top French brasserie, then look no further. It really is impressive. Personally, I thought the room was too big (its apparently a 200 seat venue), but I seemed to be in the minority there. The room is broken up with partitions, which is good, as it gives the little sections a bit more intimacy.

Once you get over looking at the place, it's time for a drink. At this stage, you realise you're in a French brasserie, not a dime a dozen Brisbane restaurant. The wine list really does deserve a special mention. There are a lot of wines on the list that you've probably never had before, which in my book is the perfect wine list. They are also reasonably priced. There is a good selection of wines by the glass, ranging from $7 to $35 a glass. Or if you are there with friends, then there are some great bottles to investigate from all the great French regions - Champagne, Alsace, Burgundy, Loire, Bordeaux, Chablis and the Rhone. Some reasonably priced wines that caught my eye were the Christian Salmon Pouilly Fume Les Criots 2005 ($70), Jean Luc Mader Riesling Rosacker GC 2002 ($90), Georges Dubeouf Moulin a Vent 2005 ($49) and the Lucien Muzard Santenay “Gravieres” 2004 ($97).

If you've just won the lotto and are looking for a night out with fantastic wine, then there are some options here to really go crazy. You could start with the Dom Perignon Oenotheque 1973 ($880), move on to a Bonneau du Martray Corton Charlemagne 1996 ($300), then theDomaine Leroy Clos Vougeot 2001 ($1000) and wrap up the evening with a bottle of Chateau d’Yquem 1999 ($650). When you're drinking wines like that, who needs food?

Sorry to rabbit on about the wine list, but its impressive to see a restaurant really go out on a limb and avoid the typically "safe" wines you usually see.

And if wine's not your bag, then there's absinthe, beer, cocktails, pastis, cognac...

So if you manage to get past the wine list, its time to eat. The menu is pretty big, with various sections. There are plenty of options, whether you are after a salad, or something heartier. The food is French brasserie food, and doesn't try to be anything more. There are plenty of French classics on the menu like baked French snails ($16.50), French onion & Madeira soup ($13.50),beef Bourguignon ($27.50) or cassoulet du Languedoc ($35).

As there weren't an awful lot of gluten free entrees, I started with 6 natural Coffin Bay oysters ($16.90) which were lovely with a glass of Chablis. We also had the goat's cheese tartlet, served with basil, caramelised onion and petite salad ($14). The tartlet was very tasty and the perfect size for a starter. The flavours were well balanced, and the blue cheese didn't overpower the rest of the dish. Both our entrees were very good.

For mains I went with the grain fed rack of lamb with sautéed seasonal vegetables, roasted chat potatoes and rosemary jus ($31.50). The lamb was perfectly cooked, and it was tasty without being memorable. Probably not really worth $31, but this is Emporium after all.

The other main course we ordered was the salade Belle Epoque ($22), described as butter lettuce, witlof, green beans, toasted walnuts, walnut vinaigrette & fourme d`Ambert cheese. The main problem with this salad was the "toasted walnuts" were in fact candied walnuts, that just didn't go with the rest of the ingredients. Even putting the walnuts aside, this salad didn't really impress, as the flavours and ingredients didn't work together. At $22, it was a big disappointment.

For dessert I couldn't pass up the crème brulée a la chartreuse ($12). Creme brulee is one of my favourite desserts, and this one didn't let me down. Anyway we were in a French brasserie, so it would be wrong of me to finish off the meal with anything else (apart from perhaps a glass of Chateau d'Yquem, which was a bit outside the budget for the evening).

The service was a bit hit and miss. We had a table of eight, which meant a few waiters serving our table. There were a couple of mix ups during the night, but for the most part the service was decent and unobtrusive.

Don't think La Belle Epoque is limited to dinner either - the restaurant describes itself as a bar, restaurant and boulangerie/patisserie, so there is something to suit any time of day or occasion.

All in all, La Belle Epoque looks great, has a fantastic wine list and serves up classic French food. It's good fun, and you can have an enjoyable dinner without breaking the bank if you choose carefully. You're not likely to remember the dish you ate for the rest of your life, but it's not aiming to serve that level of food. La Belle Epoque certainly has a place in Brisbane and hopefully it will be welcomed with plenty of custom from hungry diners. And if you are a wine fanatic, then put it on your must visit list.

What does all this mean? Classic French favourites, a top wine list and great surroundings.

food bling ratings
Food - Good
Service - OK
Ambience - Classic French brasserie (if a little big)
Value for Money - OK
Wine - Top Shelf
Vegetarian - OK
Gluten Free - Limited selection

La Belle Epoque
1000 Ann Street
Fortitude Valley 4006
P - 07 3852 1500
E -
W -

Belle Epoque on Urbanspoon


Sasha said...

I haven't seen many (any?) other French restaurants in Brisbane... which is a pity I think. So, based solely on your relatively positive review I'm making a decision to go here :-D. Wish me luck!


food bling, Brisbane said...

hope you have a great night. if you're looking for fancier French food, try Montrachet or Baguette