9 December 2010
PM24 @ 24 Russell Street, Melbourne
PM24 @ 24 Russell Street, Melbourne
Philippe Mouchel is a doyen of the Melbourne restaurant scene. Having trained under the legendary French chef Paul Bocuse - a chef regarded by many as the father of French gastronomy - Mouchel established the iconic Langton's in Flinders Lane and followed that up with the highly successful Brasserie in the Crown Entertainment Complex. His latest venture is PM24, a sleek and contemporary French restaurant that forms part of the ever-expanding Press Club Group. On account of Mouchel’s stature in the fine dining market, PM24’s opening was keenly anticipated.
PM24 is situated at 24 Russell Street, about a block away from the George Calombaris stalwart The Press Club. Seemingly acknowledging the trend with Melbourne restaurants, PM24 has leveraged the airy and spacious French bistro concept adopted by the Brasserie and combined it with elements of urban grunge – most conspicuously, unrendered brick walls and minimalist light fittings.
The menu at PM24 follows a similar vein. It takes familiar items from the Brasserie menu and reduces the level of complexity and formality to produce a cuisine list of unadulterated French bistro dining.
Our first shared entrée was from the charcuterie selection – a "country paté", which was a terrine made from foie gras and pork. As expected from a Phillippe Mouchel terrine, it was well prepared with the silky foie gras providing a luxurious note to the substantial pork pieces. The accompanying sour dough toast, onion jam, pickles and dressed lettuce were Phillippe Mouchel standards and all superbly executed. In short, it was a kind of dish commonly seen at the Brasserie, but of a standard never delivered there.
The second entrée was a delightfully fresh summery dish of scallop carpaccio. Delicate discs of scallop were served on a bed of julienned endive and bottarga. The soft texture of the scallop contrasted nicely with the crispness of the endive while the yuzu mayonnaise provided a light citrus acidity which cut through the saltiness of the bottarga. It was a dish of subtle, but balanced, and well considered textures and flavours.
Our main course of Kurobuta pork loin was a dish to be shared between a minimum of two people – at $35 per person. It was served with a crumbly pecan nut crust, caramelised fennel and sweet spiced port jus. The pork itself arrived on the bone and was cooked to perfection with slightly spongy but succulent flesh. It had a rich porky flavour but did suffer from being unevenly seasoned and, in general, over-seasoned. The accompanying fennel was nicely caramelised to dull the customary sharp aniseed note and provided a pleasant counterpoint to the very sweet spiced port jus.
For dessert, we shared the “degustation of bistro classic” – a platter that included Italian meringue served with runny vanilla custard, chocolate mousse with pistachio and raspberry sorbet. The platter was, as the waiter described, an excellent dessert. The meringue was highlighted by a light and airy, soufflé like, consistency with a subtly sweet flavour while the custard was smooth and fragrant. The mousse was rich with chocolate notes and had a luxurious velvety texture and a slightly chewy consistency, which was thoroughly enjoyable. Providing excellent balance to the relatively sweet and heavy items was the raspberry sorbet - while not the best sorbet this reviewer has sampled, it was nevertheless excellently prepared with a smooth and fluffy texture and a crisp fresh raspberry taste.
Our meal totalled approximately $135 – fairly reasonable given the quality of the cuisine served. PM24’s prices are roughly the same as those charged by the Brasserie. It appears that PM24, unburdened by the presumably high Crown Entertainment Complex lease expenses, is afforded greater financial flexibility to produce higher quality food – flexibility that is evidently used to good effect.
Service standards were, on the whole, excellent. Wait staff were attentive and knowledgeable, friendly but not intrusive. An order of French fries was forgotten but, in the context of the whole experience, it was a minor matter and easily overlooked.
On our limited sampling of the PM24 menu, it appears that PM24 has the requisite underpinnings to be highly successful in the Melbourne fine dining market. PM24 provides the high quality French cuisine that the Brasserie promised but never quite delivered. In short, PM24 combines excellent food with solid service standards and charges reasonable prices. The next visit cannot come soon enough.