French Indulgence

Damien and I went to an interesting talk last night at the State Library of NSW called, “French Indulgence”, featuring three guest speakers: Damien Pignolet (Claude’s & Bistro Moncur), Guy Vaillant (Pavillion on the Park) and Franck Fancois (La Gerbe D’Or).

Of the three, Pignolet was by far the smoothest of the three guest speakers, with a well considered (and probably well rehearsed) history of his family. Although Australian born (with a French father and an English/German Australian mother), Pignolet loves French food and has made a lifelong career out of it. He told some very funny stories about his French ancestry, and of a history of leaving France and then Mauritius due to odd business dealings. He spoke with passion about his mother’s cooking (although conceding her technique was sometimes not so good) and of growing up in a house where there was a real sense of ritual and purpose about the evening meal. But he also spoke with passion about one of the most amazing meals he’d experienced in his life: a meal of truffles slowly and lovingly cooked a few years ago in France. He told us that Bistro Moncur was his proudest achievement and that his pet peeves included bread and butter before a main course and the combination of crackers and cheese.

Franck Francois agreed with Pignolet about the bread and butter combination, describing it as an “insult to the chef”, though he said there’s nothing that can taste better than bread and butter. He explained, however, the combination of bread and oil and bread and butter is a tradition that related to poor nutrition amongst poor people, and that bread is meant to be enjoyed in and by itself. He spent a fair deal of his talk describing the history of bread as a means, I guess, of conveying his love of bread. He said his love mostly came from the fact that bread was so simple to make, dismissing the use of so many ingredients in modern bread. He was also dismissive of the modern sandwich, noting that modern sandwiches are all about what’s on the inside and that bread has become nothing more than an envelope. He was a really interesting speaker and I think I would have liked to have heard more from him.

Vaillant, on the other hand, didn’t know when to shut up, with his long and rambling treatise on “why Australian wine will never be as good as French wine”. I did, however, enjoy the comparisons he made about the Australian and French wine regions, emphasising the best Australian wines in the future will probably come from the areas around Melbourne and Perth.

Overall, though, a really good night. And from there we wandered off to the Statement Bar for a couple of glasses of wine and beer, and where you can purchase a really terrific value Cheese Platter. And no, we didn’t mix the cheese and crackers!

  1. That sounds great. I’ve never been to Bistrot Moncur or Claude’s but they’ve both been on the list of places I’d like to go for a while – I got Damien Pignolet’s French cookbook for Christmas last year and it’s excellent.

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  2. Hi Tom, nice to meet you. Been reading your blog for a couple of weeks – very entertaining. Moncur is tremendous, one of my favourite places to eat. And yes, my mate Damien has Damien’s cookbook and says it’s terrific! James

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