The opening of an operator's seventh venue should almost engender fatigue in even the most committed fans. But the combination of Con Christopoulos, Ian Curley and Josh Brisbane (European, City Wine Shop, Spring Street Grocer, Kirk's Wine Bar et al) always turns heads because the businesses they open are all genuinely interesting. They're individual and well designed, and show a consistent capacity to leap from the box poised and confident. The latest, French Saloon, is all those things, starting with a particularly gorgeous room fashioned from a former apartment above Kirk's Wine Bar in the CBD. There's a vintage zinc-topped bar imported from France, a tiny and adorable courtyard, banks of windows adding to the room's sense of space, a painted timber floor, classic timber bistro furniture and, for a flash of colour, a red ceiling.
The menu, designed by Curley in collaboration with head chef Todd Moses (late of Supernormal), is a solid bistro don't-scare-the-horses affair built on the foundation of good ingredients and skilful cooking. Cured kingfish shares a plate with carrot slices and a mildly spicy gravlax dressing with confit yolk crumbled over the top. Carpaccio is served with pickled green chilli and whole anchovies while blood sausage is teamed prettily with thin slices of beetroot and apple. There's dry-aged steak, flounder roasted whole and served with shellfish butter, oysters, caviar and a good range of cheese and dessert, including gelati from the group's own Gelateria Primavera (the fior de latte is a classic). The booze list, as user-friendly as the menu, leans towards the French and includes a good selection of apéritifs. French Saloon may be the seventh go-around for these guys but it shows no sign of repetitive strain.
French Saloon, level 1, 380-384 Little Bourke St (enter from Hardware La), Melbourne, (03) 9600 2142; open Mon-Fri 12pm-11pm.