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Jane Faulkner

Jane Faulkner writes

“It’s been a very Frenchified week. Bastille Day on Monday, café au lait and
conversation with a Parisian fella on Tuesday, a tasting launch the 1996 vintage Moet & Chandon yesterday, and Moretons in Carlton to confirm its place as a bustling brasserie a la Francaise, bien sur.
And while is sounds like a cliché, Moretons is very much the type of brasserie that flourishes in Paris – much loved by locals and tourists alike and offering simple bistro fare. The dining space is small (seats only 33, with an upstairs room usually left for functions), attractive but dimly lit, crammed with bistro tables covered with butchers-paper-over-white-tablecloths, cloth napkins and mostly Thonet chairs.
There’s a lot of wood – from the beams to the floor to the backbar /workbench area with the unsightly candelabra dripping with wax, more at home with Miss Havisham perhaps. Moretons creates a happy atmosphere – from the hum and clang of happy diners to the efficient and cheery waiters. No wonder it’s very much a favorite for the locals.
Affable owners/chefs Jenny Walsh and Chris Rees opened Moretons two years ago, after selling their other Moretons in England. Rees decided to return home to Australia after a 30-year hiatus. Their aim has been to create a typically French brasserie without going over the top. That they have achieved very well.
The menu is scrawled on two large mirrors, each hanging on the longest walls, and chalked on a portable blackboard. The menu, tweaked daily depending what looks good at the market, is modest in size and scope, offering the right mix of mostly French favorites, perhaps chicken livers, or linguine with mushrooms and truffle oil. Steaks are a feature – porterhouse ($19.50), quality eye fillet ($23), with various sauces such as pepper or Dijon-style and served with the requisite bowl of frites – people just love those thin chips. The smoked salmon with wild rice blinis and horseradish cream ($11) was a perfect entree, their version of the buckwheat pancakes, blinks are small, plump and soft and given some texture to the bite with wild-rice.
The wine list is small – about five reds and five whites, all available by the glass – but hey, they offer BYO. Pinot noir is a good all-rounder for French food so I took advantage of the BYO policy, cheap at $4.50 a bottle corkage. The Kooyong 2000 Pinot noir was a beut match with the entree of chevre salad (see best choice) as much as it was with the main course of duck.
There’ll always be a duck dish at a French restaurant. At Moretons, its duck breast that has been grilled then finished in the oven ($23). Sliced a little thickly and splayed on the plate, the meat was pink and juicy but with a little too much fatty skin for my liking. Still, this traditional French dish was partnered well with morello cherries, which cut some of the fattiness, and lovely wilted spinach.
A few desserts are tempting – good tarte tatin ($10) – and it’s advisable to share one if you’re going to order an entrée and main course each.

Place Moretons Brasserie
Where 166 Rathdowne Street Carlton
Telephone 9349 4422
Hours Thursday and Friday noon-3pm; Monday-Saturday 6pm-late
Licensed and BYO $4.50 corkage a bottle
Verdict Packed to the rafters is an apt phrase on Friday and Saturday nights at the small and cheery French bistro with its good food and reasonable prices. So book to avoid disappointment
Ambience 7/10
Food 7/10
Value 8/10

The Age Thursday July 17 2003 –