There’s no mistaking the French elegance of the Sofitel chain. From the manicured topiary at the entrance, colourful floral displays and artwork in the foyer and furniture (all imported from France), the daily rituals of baking bread and lighting the lamp, the Sofitel’s signature fragrance wafting through the air-conditioning in foyers and restaurants, through to the greeting of ‘Bonjour’, the hotel is uniquely ‘French’. It’s the epitome of an organized, cultured brand which, through sight, sound, smell, taste and feel tells us that we will be well cared for.
Francophiles from way back, it was a delight to accept an invitation to dine at the Sofitel’s Bistro on3, in the heart of Broadbeach. Marketed as the more casual of the Sofitel’s two restaurants, this restaurant is the hotel’s take on a French bistro, replete with wine buffet and a French chef.
Chef Lilian Bourcet, who hails from Biarritz in South-West France, has been with the Sofitel for two years. He brought the influence of his homeland firstly to Room 81, and this year to Bistro on3.
So, how well does this bistro live up to its name and to the Sofitel’s reputation?
A French bistro, the Penguin Companion to Food states, has traditionally been “…an establishment where one can have something to eat, as well as drinks…simple dishes, perhaps of a rustic character and not expensive.”
Traditionally, bistros’ concise menus reflected the regional cuisine of their owners: simple homestyle meals using cooking techniques which made the most of cheaper cuts of meat, and often ‘less than the best’ ingredients. Bistro meal sizes were usually generous, often served with a glass of red wine.
“The engines that drove people to make these dishes were farmers, homemakers, people facing difficult circumstances and looking for answers – for example to preservation of food sourcing.”
“To me the enduring, lasting glory of French cuisine are these basic regional dishes, and significantly it’s the French attitude towards everyday things [that’s important].” Anthony Bourdain
But in the last twenty years or so, the Penguin Companion to Food notes, changes were afoot in ‘bistrodom’. They “…had, towards the end of the 20th century, begun to be annexed by more pretentious premises.”
Just as many traditional cuisines have adapted to generational change, the culture of the bistro has also changed to match the location, our more sophisticated palates and our food presentation expectations!
Warmly greeted by Bistro on3’s new manager David Oh, we take the lift to the third floor and enter the bistro. Distinguished rather than rustic, the Parisian skyline featured on a scrim above the wine buffet is the telltale food origin marker. Otherwise, you could be forgiven for mistaking the room’s retro sophistication for the dining room of a gentleman’s club, its tones of earthy brown sedate and discrete. It carries the hallmarks of the Sofitel’s sophistication, rather than the earthiness of a traditional French bistro.
The cuisine at Bistro on3 is ‘classic French’ with a modern Australian twist. It follows the trend of many French bistros in offering lighter fare and foods on trend for their health conscious clientele.
Our entrée of Seared sea scallops with sweet peas, asparagus and smoked bacon is served with quinoa, the Pancetta and Goats cheese salad with heirloom tomatoes and raspberry vinaigrette. Our dessert of Mille Feuille is served with seasonal fruits and mango sorbet, the Chocolate Delice with salted caramel.
There’s no mistaking the quality classic French ingredients and dishes: Foie Gras, truffles in season, roulades and terrines, and even the best Sweetbreads we’ve tasted as a special.
The generous rustic serves are evident in some dishes, such as ‘the best we’ve ever tasted’ 400g steaks (rather than the standard 250g). Other dishes are works of art, a tapestry of colour and texture splashed across the plate. It’s fine cuisine of the best quality: grass-fed beef, free range poultry and seeds, freshly made béarnaise, and pastries flown in from France. The presentation is exquisite, reminding me that we eat our food with our eyes before it ever enters our mouth!
The menu is matched with wine suggestions (mostly $10 – $14 per glass), however there’s a buffet of mid-range boutique wines available to accompany your meal ($30 per person). Featuring highly rated Australian and international wines (with scores of 85 or more on the 100-point scale), diners can enjoy a choice of different grape varieties to match their courses.
Following the food service, Chef Lilian comes out of the kitchen to greet the guests, answering questions about the meal and having a chat.
We may have travelled far from the French bistro’s driving ‘wheels of necessity’ cuisine in price (Mains $28 – $42) and presentation, but its origins can still be seen in some dishes: a charcuterie plate, Home-style beef and burgundy pie with thick cut chips and even the Double baked cheese soufflé.
In fairness, though, it could be said that Bistro on3 has been inspired by French bistros, transcending their earthiness in the Sofitel’s inimitable way, to another level of dining: classic French cuisine for the sophisticated new world diner.
Review posted August 2014
Address: Sofitel Gold Coast Level 3, 81 Surf Parade, Broadbeach, Queensland 4218
Phone: 07 5592 2250
Anthony Bourdain on great bistro recipes and techniques, 2011, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OV7JRozEGOg
Davidson A 2002, The Penguin Companion to Food, Penguin, London.
Good Food Gold Coast dined as guests of the Sofitel Gold Coast.