Started by two French brothers, Luc and Loic, and inspired by family recipes, LoLuk offers an authentic taste of the fabled Provence region. Housed in a cosy space on Bourke Street, the menu includes the traditional likes of a Nicoise tart ($14) with anchovies, black olives and caramelised onions cooked to a tender sweetness sliding out of a perfectly crumbly base. A special of pork and calvados (that is, an apple brandy) pâté is also flavoursome bistro fare. Both come with crisp greens and plenty of balsamic vinegar and provide an excellent introduction to Provençal eating.
Located on the south coast of France, Provence has a strong Mediterranean influence. Perhaps the most universally recognised dish from the region is the ratatouille ($8), an apparently simple vegetable dish which inspires infinite arguments about the definitive version amongst French chefs. LoLuk's version is colourful and makes use of some top-shelf produce, with the mushrooms, red peppers and zucchini really singing.
Mains continue in the same vein of precisely rendered French classics. The duck breast and Provençal gnocchi ($36) is southern France on a plate: a bit rustic, refined but hearty, and ideal winter food. Also good is the eye fillet steak ($39). The most tender cut of beef, it's cooked to a light pink medium rare and served alongside a golden-topped square of creamy potato gratin.
French food may not be the lightest of cuisines, but you'll want to stick around for dessert, which may include a trio of half moon-shaped orange blossom fritters — these come crispy and subtly sweet, and arranged with a drizzle of marmalade and a scoop of blood orange sorbet. Sweet tooths can plump for the chocolate fondant, which is suitably pillow-soft, and satisfactorily spills chocolate lava out of its centre and into a fresh blackberry sorbet (both $14).
The wine list has selections from Provence and beyond, and a couple of classic cocktails are also available. A grapefruit Negroni ($16) is delivered with a twist in a cute Mason jar and martini glass, adding another quaint touch to the restaurant's homespun vibe.
As a French proverb written above the tiny bar would have it, a glass of wine is good for health and morale. Nutritionists might disagree, but foodies and Francophiles will find LoLuk's brand of old-school provincial French cooking similarly restorative.
EDITOR'S NOTE: LoLuk also whips out the raclette every Tuesday and Wednesday night from 6–10pm — and for $49 per person, you can eat as much as you want (plus profiteroles for dessert).