I’m going to start this review with some advice: if you’re a chef, wannabe chef, ravenous carnivore or a foodie of any description and you find yourself in
I first heard about this tiny restaurant in the Marais quarter during a chat with Kyneton chef Annie Smithers. She she nominated it as her favourite international dining experience and said it was at the "funny little restaurant with gingham curtains and a huge open fire" where she had the best steak of her life.
"(There was) a 50-year-old Frenchwoman who had a whole side of beef sitting on a wooden chopping board," Smithers said. "She would sharpen her knife, slice off a bit of meat and just put it on the grill plate on the fire. It was so simple, but there was something in the honesty of the food that was so basic but so perfect."
Just hearing that description made my mouth water and knowing I was soon to find myself in
Those not lucky enough to have heard the inside word from Smithers would likely walk straight past the small restaurant that is barely signed and surrounded by plenty of other eateries with much more welcoming appearances. Luckily, I was with someone with local knowledge and once I was inside I realised the lack of signage is exactly what makes Robert et Louise so charming. Why? Because it keeps the tourists (except us) out.
Although we soon discovered the nondescript appearance didn’t mean business was slow. Even at 10pm on a weeknight and were lucky to get a seat. Most diners were squashed along a communal table down the centre of the room or sitting at the bar near the door.
It took me a few moments to adjust to the scene - the tiny yet cosy joint just oozed atmosphere with exposed timber beams and walls adorned with pictures, ornaments and cooking utensils (you name it, it was there).
But the thing that immediately caught my eye, and what made this restaurant stand out over any other I’ve eaten at, was the kitchen and what came out of it.
Actually, “kitchen” is a pretty generous term for what was really nothing more than an alcove with an open fire with a cast iron grill over the flames and a giant wooden chopping block.
It was a very simple system: at Robert et Louise it’s all about the steak. Each order involved the chef grabbing a side of meat from the hanging fridge, hacking off the required cut and slapping the meat on the hotplate.
It sounds rough and rustic and not for the faint-hearted and it was all three. A few minutes on each side and voila, each steak cooked to perfection were served on a wooden board with nothing other than a pot of
But first things first: for entree I had a generous serve of foie gras with spiced toast and apple slices (18 euros) while my buddy had a plate of saucisson, which is kind of like a French chorizo (6 euros).
Both were brilliant but it was the rump (18 euros) we were after and the rump we were about to get. As expected, the finished product (cooked medium rare) was a meat-lover’s dream. It was dark pink, juicy, tender enough to cut with a butter knife and also had my favourite steak requirement...plenty of fat with plenty of flavour. We’d ordered a serve of salad and potatoes (5 euros each) and a bottle of red (22 euros) to wash it down and despite the massive serves not a morsel was left on the plates.
Add some hilarious conversation from the three random blokes sitting next to us and this dining experience was simply the best. We finished with a shared crème brulee but as good as it was it barely registered. I went to Robert et Louise for the steak and to experience a genuine French bistrot and both exceeded expectations.