It's disconcerting to find two of my favourite restaurants morphed like this. Not physically morphed, but one has taken over the premises of the other, which requires adjustment.
For so many years, we have walked through these doors in Campbell to eat at Lanterne Rooms, that breezy, sophisticated high-end Malaysian-inspired eatery with its matching mountain-tea-house look of dark wood, screens and large-bladed ceiling fans.
Now there's a picture of the Mona Lisa on the wall. What is she thinking about all this? Is she scanning the room like me, checking for anomalies in this baton pass from Malaysia to France? There's the Eiffel Tower, check. The chandeliers possibly more French, check.
We're not seeing anything else that has changed, and I'm wondering how we can traverse the 10,417 kilometres from Kuala Lumpur to Paris with so little discernible change in our surrounds. The chairs, have they changed? They are too low for some of us and I'm like the unusually little schoolkid whose chest barely summits the edge of the desk. Oh well.
In Braddon, Les Bistronomes was my go-to for family birthdays, a combination of special night out and relaxed feel, of shared meals, great wine, and lovely honest unfussy French menu.
It feels a little more upmarket at Campbell and perhaps this is more about the private location and monied crowd. It doesn't have that Braddon scruffiness, which will be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your attitude to Braddon grunge and Campbell pomp.
Our habit at Les Bistronomes, and our strong recommendation, is to order the duck baked in ash, and (or) the beef Wellington. Both are large, shared dishes, that come on a platter. A whole duck baked dramatically in ash, and a chunk of meat baked luxuriously in pastry. They're both really good, generous and a little messy and jovial, and this has to be the best way of eating.
But tonight we are two, and given the more twosome, foursome set-up in Campbell, we venture into the single dishes.
Pork rillettes en croute ($8) is perfect, a light, simple and delicate terrine of shredded pork and mustard seeds, with crisp toasts, greens and cornichons. Refined, but not complicated.
Smoked chicken terrine and trio of corn ($22) is more complicated, the corn coming as a puree, kernels in mustard and popcorn. The popcorn is presumably there for texture and for impact but it's a little useless given how tasteless popcorn is without the salt and sugar or fat that smothers it in other settings. The terrine is simple, just the chicken, delicate like the pork. This dish is more complex but less exciting than the pork.
Lamb rump, honey and pistachio-glazed lamb shoulder roll and carrot puree ($38) convinces us when the guy mentions baklava. It pays the commitment, arriving as a square pastry parcel of meat, sweet and crisp with the taste of lamb fat, I could eat this all day. The lamb meat is generous and exceptional, and there's radish to cut through things. The only thing I'm not understanding here is the weird square of fried dough.
Bouillabaisse ($40) is a long-standing dish at Les Bistronomes and it's good to see. Seafood soup is not common on menus given Australia's ambivalent relationship to seafood and Canberra's special geographic barrier.
But Les Bistronomes does this classic very well. It's rich, salty, full of good seafood - scallop, prawn, mussels, fish fillet, and with a piece of grilled toast and rouille.
The wine list is succinct and really appealing. The wines are mainly from France, with some of the top Canberra wines and a non-filtered natural-ferment riesling from Serbia. We like it a lot, although the mark-ups seem rather hefty at more than double retail in some cases.
Chocolate pave hazelnut ice cream, avocado cream and lime butter ($17) is a refined dessert, if a little fussy with all of its elements. There's a delicious square of soft chocolate, beautiful ice-cream, and a lime cream - and all of it is lovely.
The strawberry charlotte ($17) is striking visually, and stunning to taste. Inside a striped red, curled tuille is strawberry mousse and a fennel yoghurt foam - the "foam" is really exciting, and the soft strawberry mousse is old-fashioned and likeable. Fennel in my world is nature's medicine, so if you share the feeling you can feel indulged and cured all at the same time.
Les Bistronomes then is both the same and different in its new spot - the same menu, but an altered feel.
If you shared my love of the relaxed joie de vivre of the Braddon location you probably want to head straight, as always, to those shared mains of duck or beef Wellington.
Address: 18 Blamey Place, Campbell
Hours: Open Tuesday to Saturday, for lunch and dinner.
Owner: Clement Chauvin
Chef: Clement Chauvin
Wheelchair access: Yes
Vegetarian: Limited (an entree and a main) but good
Noise: No problem