Popup dinners have proved to be an exciting addition to the Gold Coast dining scene. Some may be ‘one off’ events ‘guerrilla’ style with the location held as a closely guarded secret, such as those that were held by Goldtoast Supper Club, Lola & the Chef, and Fingers & Bones.
But there’s another type of popup where existing cafés extend their hours and culinary repertoire to hold dining events within their own premises. For some owners, it’s a relatively risk free way to test the waters for extended trading hours, to stave off the monotony of routine, while showing off a larger repertoire of skills and dishes to their clientele.
Whatever the motivation, it’s a ‘win: win’ scenario, providing diners with a highly anticipated event where they can gather with a group of friends to enjoy food prepared by one of their favourite chefs, with all the advantages of a properly set out restaurant.
Having gained a liquor license, Le Cafe Gourmand’s chef Rémi Baron has pleased locals by offering two types of regular popups: a Sunday Session with nibbles and a Chef’s Dinner, both held once or twice a month.
Already keen fans of Rémi’s modern French-influenced cuisine, we’re pleased to accept the invitation to attend one of his dinners, held on the last Friday of the month. Most places had been filled weeks before.
About thirty Francophiles are dining, their tables spread out along the verandah and through the restaurant. With the venue being a converted beach house, there’s a fresh but comfortable feel, more intimate at night with ambient lighting and tables laid out with cloths and flowers. It’s a romantic setting, added to by the dulcet tones of French conversation which drifts lightly across the room.
Rémi is the sole chef, so bookings have been staggered over a couple of hours. Most of us already know the friendly wait staff, so the evening runs smoothly.
Our appetiser of Beetroot carpaccio is presented as a flower with rose-like petals of cooked dressed beetroot assembled on top of slices of marinated raw beet. It’s the third beetroot presentation that’s the richest – a shot glass of coulis laced with vodka and chilli. Without the giveaway straw, we’d be tempted to pour the shot over the carpaccio. Instead it’s a richly decadent chaser as a final leg of the ‘beetroot three ways’ journey.
We’ve chosen French wine and beer to match the food: Domaine du Salvard Sauvignon Blanc available by the glass, its slightly acidic floral tones complementing a range of food without overshadowing flavours. The 1664 lager is also a great choice. Served in a glass honouring the Kronenbourg Brewery’s 350th anniversary in 2014, we’re drinking French heritage, the ‘bière de beers’! The wine list is tiny, but adequate for the venue’s needs. No complaints, though, as you can also BYO.
We’ve previously enjoyed the confit duck terrine marbled with a swathe of blue-vein cheese. It’s served as entrée beside a crisp apple and hazelnut salad, which contrasts well in texture and freshness to the rich terrine.
Main course is Tasmanian salmon, cooked to medium rare, its skin crackling crisp, served with broccolini, a velvet-smooth roasted pumpkin purée and beurre blanc sauce. Though this appears on a menu this appears as a fairly standard dish, its execution is not, as every element is perfectly smooth, perfectly salted, or perfectly cooked.
But it’s the dessert where Rémi truly shines – an individual classic Pear Tarte Tatin, its pastry crisp and flaky, topped with vanilla ice cream and served, in a modern twist, on a salted caramel drizzled slate. There’s no question about sharing so exquisite a dessert. It’s sensational! My ‘dish of the night’.
It’s been a delicious meal, balanced and not overly rich for our stomachs. How excellent it would be to share one of Rémi’s dinners with a group of friends or as a special family occasion. Rémi tells us that he does take group bookings for 10+ by arrangement, so then you could have the restaurant to yourself! There’s food for thought…
Our tip: To attend one of Le Café Gourmand’s monthly dinners, make sure you’re on the mailing list and book early! We’d hate you to miss out.
36 Cronulla Avenue, Mermaid Beach Ph: 07 5572 7793