Add Frenchie, Mt Vic's new bistro next door, to your dining list. Ortega's cool younger sister is helmed by chef Teresa Pert, who cooks instinctively French dishes in a fabulous dining room at the bottom of Marjoribanks Street.
This spot has a lot of history, as the former address of The Roxburgh Bistro (where Teresa used to cook), so it's particularly fitting that she's returned to realise her ideal eating experience. Frenchie is small yet perfectly formed, based a lot on practicality — the kitchen isn't the largest so Teresa and her team make the most of the space available by turning out a beautiful $59 set menu.
Start with the Assiette d'apéritif, a dish that, if I was waffling clichés would describe as a symphony of textures. But I won't. It is beautifully composed though, with elements like crisp seasonal vegetables with house made aioli, smoked brisket remoulade, mushrooms marinated in Garage Project Pils 'n Thrills, and pig's head terrine with quince mustard and sourdough bread. The plate pairs perfectly with a Kir aperitif, a creme de cassis and sparkling wine cocktail ($10), or the Citron Spritz, an aperitif made with Lillet Blanc, lemon, sparkling wine and grapefruit ($14). This dish stays fairly constant on the Frenchie menu, while the mains are subject to change according to season and what their supplier has.
There have already been dishes like chard and fromage frais crepes with asparagus, walnuts and citrus velouté; Hawkes Bay lamb rump with swede fondant, mustard and parsley salad; pan-roasted market fish with sauce verte, yams, shiitake mushrooms and cavolo nero; and fried beef cheek with ox tongue, aligot and roasted rhubarb. Teresa loves to use secondary cuts, that offer real, interesting flavours. A selection of sides are available to supplement the set menu — the cauliflower and leek gratin ($8.50) is particularly delicious.
One note on the desserts: if a dish involves a fromage blanc sorbet, order it. Hands down, absolutely the best ice cream I've ever eaten.
Sarah Limacher is the sommelier to note behind Frenchie's drinks list, a neat lineup that features beautiful Champagnes available in smaller bottles if you're having trouble choosing. She's known as the Queen of Champagne, so rest assured: no decision is a poor (or should that be pour?) decision. You're in fabulous hands at Frenchie.