LE MISTRAL, Willunga, SA
On the weekend I took a trip down to Willunga to dine at the new restaurant that’s taken over the old Fino location. With Fino’s high standards, multiple awards and accolades, it took some brave people to take on the space, and those people are Tarik Marco and Sandrine Maltret a French couple who twelve months ago, opened up La Terre (café and creperie) just up the street. You’ll find chef Tarik in the kitchen and Sandrine front of house.
The ‘mistral’ refers to a strong, cold wind that blows from southern France into the Gulf of Lion in the northern Mediterranean, sometimes reaching 100km/hour. It’s usually accompanied by clear, fresh weather, and plays a big role in the resulting climate of Provence, where Tarik hails from.
Only open since February this year, Le Mistral is serving French-style food. Tarik is influenced by his background in Provence but also takes inspiration from wider French cuisine. It’s all about family, generosity and sharing. In Tarik’s own words, “there’s nothing fancy about our food, just honest and generous cuisine with local produce and a bit of a French twist.”
And that’s exactly what it is – satisfying and comforting and teamed with a cosy, intimate atmosphere. It was the perfect place for us to spend our cold winter’s night. There were a two or three larger tables set but it was mostly couples dining on this night.
For entrée, the Burgundy snails in pie with mushrooms fricassee, ‘beurre d’escargot’ and garlic tomato was spot on. A succulent, meaty snail and mushroom mixture wrapped in thin, buttery pastry and sitting on a roasted tomato sauce. This dish should be a compulsory start to a Le Mistral meal. The Prawns in brik pastry on parsnip puree with sage and cumin apple confit and Provencale aioli were also good. Presentation-wise, perhaps something green on the plate would have lifted it, but I really enjoyed those prawns. The pastry was crisp and light and the flavours of the parsnip puree, the sage and cumin, were a great combination.
Onto mains. Black Angus filet with duck fat potatoes, sautéed greens, speck and homemade jus, and you would have to have something seriously wrong with you not to go for the optional generous sexy slice of whole foie gras briefly pan fried (an extra $15). And when you’re dining in a French restaurant, there is absolutely no such thing as guilt! This was a well-executed dish, the beef cooked perfectly medium-rare sitting on crisp beans and snow peas and accompanied by some great potatoes!
The Orange duck with heirloom vegetables with carrot ginger coulis and carrot flan glazed with Grand Marnier sauce is a must-do. There’s something really comforting about this dish. It certainly doesn’t look anything like the traditional duck l’orange I’ve had. The duck breast was pink and juicy and it paired nicely with that ginger coulis and the Grand Marnier sauce. The side of Green peas with speck, lettuce and caramelised onions we had with our mains was also delicious.
The perfect end to our meal was a traditional Grand Marnier soufflé each. Rising high above the ramekin rim, I was almost too scared to stick my spoon into it for fear it would collapse. But I went forth and made a hole in the middle and poured in my little jug of Grand Marnier. It was light and airy, but slightly creamy, like a good soufflé should be.
I don’t think anyone could be disappointed with Le Mistral. As Tarik says, it’s honest, generous food and you can feel the love and care that Tarik and Sandrine put into the business and what’s on the plates. One thing is for sure – you’ll leave completely satisfied and with a happy belly, and for that, I say merci beaucoup!