Before year's end, Chris Lucas will realise a long-held dream of running a French bistro when he opens Batard, an 80-seater split over two levels of a Victorian terrace in Melbourne's CBD. Lucas, who also owns Melbourne restaurants Kisumé and Chin Chin (which expanded to Sydney last year), says his desire to open a French restaurant is the culmination of many years of visiting France to buy wine.
"I'm just trying to do something that I really love," he says. "I love eating in that way. It's a bit of a romantic journey down that path," says Lucas.
Details of the menu are scant at this stage but charcuterie, including jambon persillé, will be a focus as will steak, whether that's en croute, steak frites or chateaubriand. The menu will be planned closely with Anthony Puharich of Vic's Premium Quality Meat. Other bistro staples, such as oysters and crème brûlée, will also make appearances, as will slow-cooked meat dishes. "They work really well in Melbourne, where it's cooler most of the year," says Lucas. Punters will be able to swing by for breakfast and pick up house-made pastries or bread, too.
While no team announcements have been made yet, Lucas is speaking to chefs in both France and the United States and working closely with group sommelier Philip Rich to assemble a crack team of young sommeliers.
Despite the classically bistro flavour of the menu, the wine list will roam a little wider. But that doesn't mean you can't expect a good representation of low-intervention drops from Beaujolais alongside grower Champagne and some solid Burgundies.
Located on the Paris end of Bourke Street (naturally), Batard's interiors – a mix of natural timber, leather and a classic palette – will be designed by Rabindra Naidoo, who has also worked on venues such as The European and Neapoli. The venue will also encompass a rooftop bar with indoor and outdoor seating, as well as views over Parliament House and the east end of Bourke Street.
Having just returned from a trip encompassing Paris, Burgundy and New York, Lucas says that Francophile fever has hit the Big Apple, pointing to the openings of Le Coucou, Frenchette and Augustine in the last two years. He thinks it's time Melbourne re-kindled its own love affair with French dining, as seen at the likes of Fanny's, Maxim's and Two Faces in the second-half of last century. "It's come full circle I guess," he says.
Expect an opening in early December, if all goes to plan.
Batard, 19-21 Bourke St, Melbourne, Vic.