Thursday, 30 August 2012

Le Bistro des Artistes (Subiaco, Perth WA)

424 Hay St
Subiaco Western Australia 6008
(08) 6141 8761
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Hours:
    Tue-Thu 10:30 - 23:00
    Fri-Sat 9:00 - 23:00


Le Bistro des Artistes on Urbanspoon 
Subiaco is blossoming, with very European style shops and restaurants, beyond the chains you find elsewhere. There is a nice vibe going on at Subi at present, and the opening of Le Bistro des Artistes is just a proof of it and a worthy addition to the always very charming Subi. At least a reason to visit Subiaco again.

Recently opened, Le Bistro des Artistes is an authentic French Bistro managed and operated by two real French chefs (Alain Fabregues & Emmanuel Mollois), that offers good quality decently priced food in a very nice relaxing setting.

*** THE PLACE ***
The bistro is very pleasant, has a relaxed and luminous atmosphere, lovely decoration details and paintings. The main seating area is small, but the mirrored wall tricks the eye and gives the impression of the place being double the size that it is. The tables are spread also by the wall, by the bar and kitchen area, and there is a reserved area for private functions with a wonderfully celled wall. They do have nice cutlery and linen napkins. Ohhh, I wanted to cry when I got those. They will put a little wooden tray with bread and butter on arrival, and have water bottles provided to the table. 

The bistro attracts people of all ages, from the smartly or poshly dressed to the casually dressed. I always  consider this a sign that the place is appealing and good per se, and that the attraction is based on the virtues of the food and place, not on hype. 

***  THE FOOD ***
They have 2-course meals at 45 dollars and 3-course for 55 dollars during the day (from 12pm-3pm), which is a bargain having into account that we could pay that for mediocre food elsewhere. Dinner courses are more expensive, though.

Everything I tried was delicious, well prepared, and gorgeously plated. Among the entrées, the Salad Niçoise is huge and yummy with pieces of fresh tuna, while the Veal Pressé -a sort of chunky veal terrine slice- was very delicate but flavoursome and wonderful with the Jean Pierre Sancho's bread. 

Among the mains, the Salmon Sausage was delicious, again delicate and flavoursome. It is a salmon mouse sausage on a bed of pureed potato, and a yummy sauce, plus rocket and a half-moon pastry. It looked so pretty that I was like, gosh, I have to destroy this beauty to eat it. I finished with it in a microsecond. 

The Venison Mijoté is a man-sized serving of a home-style earthy casserole full of flavour, with big chunks of tender meat, veggies and potatoes. It is served in a little casserole pot, which makes everything even more charming. Perfect for winter!

The desserts are, perhaps, the star of the place, as they are are good-looking,    gorgeously plated, and with the right amount of sugar in them - scrumptious! Some of them are outstanding, all of them yummy. I have tried the lemon brûlée tart, which was delicious, served with two sauces that were divine in colour, texture and flavour, and made me want to lick my plate like a dog. The creme brûlée was truly foodorgasmic and beautifully presented. I was so excited and flabbergasted by the artistic view and by eating one cooked by a real French cook, that I forgot to take a picture and even to offer a try to my table partners! The Floating Island was nice, huge in size, and very good, but less wow than the other two.
Their coffee is well prepared but, unfortunately, one of those widespread "weakies" we find in Perth, which does not make any favour to the accompanying sweets. No sugar added, and it did lack in flavour.

There are so many sweets and dishes I would like to try at Le Bistro!

*** THE SERVICE ***

Let start by the good things. What impressed me the most is the fact that, if you happen to be at the bistro at the last hours of lunch or dinner, the chefs come out and chat to customers. We talked to Emmanuel, the pâtissier, and he was so humble and lovely! That is a high class gesture, as they are not small cooks but proper chefs.

The staff are gorgeous-looking, smiley, very friendly and eager to please.

However, that is not enough to provide a good service, as the staff are not properly organised or trained. This really puts down the great job that the chefs do at cooking. I will mention just a few issues:
+ They forgot to bring water to my table the first time I visited, and when I approached the counter to pay my bill, there was a buzz about who would attend to me.
+ When asked which type of wine a French one was, the waiter could not tell us and had to ask another one.  
There was an old couple who arrived after we did, ordered after we did, and were served before we did and were treated like royals. I guess they were somebody important as they were given fast, first-class treatment. There was a young couple beside our table, they arrived after we did, they ordered way after we did, and they were served first.
+ They forgot to bring my dessert and had to be reminded, but did not apologise.
+ They forgot to put the cutlery on the table when bringing the dessert to my friend, and had to be reminded, but did not apologise.
+ They wanted us to keep cutlery between courses because they are running an energy-saving program... At least ask customers what they want, no? 
+ My friend got a hair, long as a spaghetti, in her casserole dish. It was not hers. When the waiter was called, he asked her if she wanted the dish removed and gave a lame excuse about why the hair might be there, no apology. What sort of questions is, "Do you want it removed?" What you have to do in this sort of cases is you apologise sincerely, you retire the dish without asking and bring another. This is not a charity shelter serving food for free! I find revolting finding my own hair in my food, can you imagine other person's in a restaurant?!
+ My debit card was charged credit without even asking me what I wanted.


*** ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT ***
# It costs nothing having sachets of sweetener for customers who request them.

# The desserts cabinet has tables by it. When people want to check out the desserts, they have to approach your table, and get literally over you and your head to see what is in the cabinet. It just makes sense moving the cabinet elsewhere. Otherwise, do not put any table by the cabinet!

# At the moment, the cashier is an unfriendly spot located at the bottom end  of the counter, a tiny area between the kitchen area and the counter, surrounded by waiters moving in/out the kitchen and café areas. It is inconvenient for them having people moving along that alley, and it is not good for customers being there, either. It just makes sense having the bread area at the entrance relocated by the kitchen, and the cashier separated from the kitchen and placed close to the exit. Zen. Organic. 

#  One tiny lonely sausage in my main dish. Do not worry about my health, I am slim and fit, give me another sausage. I think my stomach can handle it. 

# Service needs to be properly managed  and reorganised to avoid the chaos we experienced during my second visit. Basic rules:
  • If you make a mistake or forget something, do apologise with a smile. 
  • If a client find a hair in his/her dish, retire it immediately and apologise without even asking. 
  • They need to be told in advance which sort of wines they are serving, especially if the variety of grape is not mentioned in the wine chart, so when the Australian customer asks, the staff can tell without hesitation. 
  • They also need to pay attention and be sure that people who arrive first are served first, that you treat everybody the same, because you do not know if the lovely person seating there is going to write a review of your place :O.
 ***
I do not want to give the wrong impression. Le Bistro des Arstistes is a great place, one of those places you want to return over and over, which has great food and desserts at very good prices, a nice atmosphere, and two very down to earth chefs. However, the service has to improve to make the visit something special and not the chaos it is at present.

MIND
** Their breakfast are French style, therefore no eggs or cooked meals are served.

** If you order the three-course meal, be patient because it can take a while for your dishes to arrive and need a partner of table to fill in the minutes.  If you are on a date, I hope you have lots of things in common to talk about!

** Bookings are recommended, especially during lunch weekdays and dinners, but walk-ins are welcomed, especially during weekend lunches, if you are just on your own or coupled.

Location 7/10
Layout 7/10
Ambience 7/10
Food 8.5/10
Sweets 8.5/10
Coffee 6/10
Service 5.5/10
Pricing 8/10

Update 3/7/2013
I have returned a couple of times since my first visit to the Bistro just after their opening and first months of life. Le Bistro is still a little jewel of a restaurant, worth the trip to Subiaco just to visit it.

The service, which was a big chaos at the beginning and put down the work of the chefs, has been sorted out. The staff, at present, are lovely, smiley, efficient, fast and attentive, so you can focus on your meal and your company.

I love the mix of home-style regional French food and dishes that are more sophisticated and creative. They change menu quite often, so you will be delighted at finding new dishes on the menu together with the stars of the house, like the salad niçoise or the creme brulee. I cannot tell you of anything that I haven't liked there, which, in itself, an statement that surprises even me!

The pricing is great for what you get. If you have the 3-course lunch, for 50 bucks, you leave with your belly full and a big smile of satisfaction on your face.

I love the place, and their toilets, and the mix of busy-ness, quietness and easy-going-ness, which explains why Le Bistro can be full for lunch on any given weekday.

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