MELBOURNE | I have fond memories enjoying meals at casual bistros in the south of France. It’s been over a decade since I last visited the region, so was excited to recently check out Tapenade for What’s On Melbourne.
Tapenade was opened by husband and wife duo Kevin Chassagne and Laurie Faget, just before last year’s big lockdown. They built almost everything themselves, digging into their savings and enlisting the help of friends. Despite the unfortunate timing they soldered on, building a steady clientele of regulars, impressed by the excellent food and warm service.
Kevin and Laurie are both chefs, and both hail from the south of France. They met while working overseas, and have worked together in kitchens around the world. Settling in Melbourne, they worked at Bistro Gitan and Frederic before taking the plunge and opening their own venue.
Tapenade is a space where customers are made to feel like they are being welcomed into Kevin and Laurie’s home. The passion and enthusiasm that they both have, and the complete lack of pretention in their attitude and the space help make this the case. The food is home-style cooking – family recipes with finesse garnered from their extensive CVs.
Produce is primarily local, sourced from Prahran Market up the road, and other independent Aussie producers. Small French producers with whom Kevin and Laurie have a connection with are also represented, especially where an Australian equivalent isn’t available or quite what they’re looking for.
The namesake Tapenade, made using Laurie’s grandmother’s recipe, served with focaccia from Noisette, is a must try. The duck liver pate on toast is another highlight. Speaking of duck, the 12 hour confit duck leg served with seasonal accompaniments is outstanding. Inspired by the duck dishes that Laurie enjoyed growing up near a duck farm, it’s one of the lightest duck dishes in town.
There’s a rotating selection of seasonal dishes, driven by what’s good at the market on any given day. If it’s on the menu when you visit, be sure to try the salade niçoise. The version here uses market fresh tuna, thinly sliced and ever so slightly seared. It elevates what’s already a wonderfully fresh, summery plate.
Pastries and rolls are available for those looking for a quick bite, along with great locally roasted coffee. For boozy drink options, the focus is on wines and cocktails, showcasing independent Australian and French producers.
For dessert, you can’t go past the Basque burnt cheesecake. Kevin insisted that I try it, and really talked it up. And gosh does it live up to expectations. It’s light, fluffy, and smooth. No where near as heavy as most versions of the favourite. In fact, that’s a theme at Tapenade. The dishes are lighter than one might expect, making the most of their Mediterranean southern French roots and seasonal focus.
Of you want to take some French pantry staples and wine home, there’s a small retail pantry at the front of the shop, stocked full of goodies.
1A/3 Commercial Road
Telephone: (03) 9119 4500
E-mail: [email protected]
Wed – Thu: 7:30am to 2:30pm
Fri: 7:30am to 8:00pm
Sat – Sun: 8:00am to 2:00pm