Richmond can easily be summed up as an inner city suburb that is flooded with cafes, bars, restaurants and furniture shop, after furniture shop. Unfortunately the area is also home to two penny pinching groups – the young, 20 to 30 something’s in saving mode, and the now senior citizen Italian and Greek immigrants from the 40’s and 50’s, which make it a tough place for businesses to survive.
So much so every week shops are shutting for good, or moving elsewhere. As a Richmond local it has become routine to scan the shop fronts for lease signs, and I often find myself struggling to remember what used to be there, moving on to marvel at all the new places that have popped up, almost overnight.
Just before Christmas I noticed Le Gourmand on Bridge Road in the typical fashion just described. The thing that caught my eye then was not just the name that suggests serious eats, but the array of air cured meats hanging from the bar – heaven!
The festive season had come and gone and it was only about a week ago that finally we decided it was high time to pay the place a visit. Winter makes me a creature of habit, coming home from work, hot shower, slipping into my favourite comfy pants, settling into the couch with a glass of red and living off of those cherished one pot wonders that take care of themselves in the oven so well! In desperate need of a break from the familiarity of our kitchen and home, we decided to dine on an inconspicuous Monday night. We pretty much had the place to ourselves, with just one other table of two.
Sharing plates being all the rage these days, Le Gourmand has captured the trend and improved upon it nicely with a range of entree, main and dessert sharing platters that incorporate a range of options for you to mix and match while not worrying too much about the damages. Typically you choose from 2, 4 or 6 “tastes” at a set price that are presented on rustic wooden boards, a rather novel and charming touch.
At first glance of the menu (which I had looked at over the internet beforehand) I was both intrigued and excited because of the vast options of meat. A section dedicated to charcutterie as well as sausages platters made my mouth water, so there was no going past either for me. Just a heads up for those that are wondering what all the fuss is about, charcutterie typically refers to pork meat and offal that has been cured (Prosciutto, Serrano Ham), smoked (bacon, pancetta), cooked or made into a farce (minced and spiced) and formed into sausages, pâtés, black puddings and salamis. In France, charcutterie extends itself to mean the shop itself that sells these delicious pork products.
We started with a charcutterie board with six typical European charcutterie items including the Prosciutto (air cured pork), Bresola (air cured beef), Jamon Serrano (Spanish cured ham), duck rilletes (slow cooked and shredded), saucisson sec (French sausage) and Chorizo (Spanish paprika spiced sausage) served with mustard fruits, cornishons, beetroot relish and a selection of breads.
Moving on to bigger and better things we sampled the sausage platter with the Merguez (Moroccan spiced lamb sausage) and the Boudin Blanc (French white sausage made with pork, cream and mushrooms). The Mergues has a robust, rich flavour while the boudin blanc is mild, creating perfect contrasts. Served with dijon mustard, tomato and chilli jam, braised cabbage and toasted warm baguette it was substantial.
I learned the sausages are not made in-house, but by a local butcher exclusively for restaurants and upon asking about the charcutterie found out it is all imported. Perhaps I was a little disappointed with an increasing number of local restaurants specialising in their in-house cured meats. However that said, the quality is not always comparable with its European counterparts and maybe best left to the experts.
Neither Googlie or myself are keen on sweets, but with the option of tasting platters featuring petit fours which are bite sized morsels, we decided to try a selection of four bites. Vanilla and Mango Cheesecake, Passion Meringue, Tiramisu Parcels and Blueberry and Vanilla Tart. While each was short and sweet, just the way I like dessert the were packed with beautiful flavours.
With a glass of Spanish rose to enjoy over the course of the meal I thoroughly enjoyed the bursts of flavours, the constant morsels of food, but enjoyed how while the food is important, it does not take center stage. For me Le Gourmand symbolises a unique format of eating, one where you come to relax, have a conversation, enjoy a few glasses of wine, maybe partake in a bottle, snack on a platter or two and maybe head home or elsewhere for a more substantial meal or simply hit the hay without feeling bloated. And with the place a hop, skip and a jump from my abode, I will be doing exactly that.
Ambience Intimate and almost cozy with exposed walls and interiors that show a respect for the times gone by. The lighting by night is sultry, great for intimate conversations or groups of friends wanting to catch up uninterrupted. There is a constant funky acid jazz beat in the background adding a further ‘cool’ dimension to the place.
Service Down to earth, the owner that runs the front of house is happy to help out with troubleshooting the menu as well as keen to have a chat. Locals that are looking for a spot to call their own, this may very well be it based on the great attitude.
Food Le Gourmand fills a gap by delivering dishes that are the perfect accompaniment to a glass of wine and great conversation. Not fussy at all but simple goodies. I would like to see a rotational menu in terms of charcutterie items extending to things like pate, terrine etc. As for the cheese, the options look great but have not check them out yet.
If meat is your thing, do check Le Gourmand out you will be nodding your head in approval. Great spot for a quiet evening, or the perfecting starting point for an evening of decadence.