From the outside, L’Hotel Gitan looks like your average local pub. Walk inside and you’ll find that the spirit of the heritage art deco building is still there but this place isn’t just your average watering hole. Transformed from its previous incarnation of Hotel Max, the team behind L’Hotel Gitan have turned this space into an open dining room catering for eager diners who are there to sample the beautiful French inspired menu that is on offer.
The centre of the dining room is the kitchen where the chefs are busily preparing the evening’s dishes and they are very busy because it is a full house and it’s a Wednesday night. For a restaurant that is located in a quieter stretch of Commercial road, L’Hotel Gitan must be doing something right to attract more than just your local neighbourhood crowd. And after a meal there it’s easy to understand why.
The team behind the restaurant is famed French Chef, Jacques Reymond, who has teamed up with three of his four children to provide diners with relaxed and well priced French fare, taking away that perception that great French food is pricey.
The menu is split into small, medium and larger plates meaning that it’s very easy for you to have a few share plates, or if you want you can just have dishes all to yourself! Dishes are French inspired with tweaks that draw on flavours from Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and the Mediterranean.
On our visit we shared a few of the dishes on the menu so that we could sample a variety of different dishes. We started with the Fruits De Mer Salad which was the perfect dish to begin with as it was light yet flavoursome. Scallops were lightly seared leaving the flesh succulent and sweet, whilst the salmon was diced and marinated in a caper, chive vinaigrette. The Kingfish ceviche was slightly sweet thanks to curing agent, passionfruit. The sliced fennel added texture to the dish. A great combination of different tastes of the sea.
This was followed by the Gitan Steak Tartare, a popular dish that has made its way from L’Hotel Gitan’s sister restaurant Bistro Gitan. I really enjoyed their take on the Steak Tartare which was your traditional mix but served on a Cos lettuce cup. The extra crunch and freshness of the lettuce cup adds a new level of the steak tartare which can sometimes be very rich and heavy.
They also have an onsite Rotisserie where you can sample the Rotisserie du jour. On our visit, the Rotisserie of the day was a beautifully succulent chicken that was served simply with roasted potatoes. Sometimes you forget how a simple dish can be full of flavour but this dish reminded me of that. There is something special about having something cook on a Rotisserie that just takes the taste to another level. We chose the Tea Salt Baby Beet salad with goats curd, sage and king brown mushrooms to accompany the dish. The salad had a nice tanginess that worked well with the chicken.
We finished with a simple yet really well cooked Seasonal mushroom risotto that was on the special’s board. Well seasoned and the perfect texture, this was the perfect way to end the savoury part of our meal. Also perfect to help keep you warm on a cold winter’s night.
Of course, we couldn’t go past dessert. I mean the French really do dessert well and we sampled a few of the desserts on offer. The Tarte au chocolat was to die for. Not too sweet and the consistency of the chocolate filling was perfect – smooth and not too thick and balanced with the simple tart case it was all about the chocolate!
We also sampled the White chocolate and yoghurt delice with rhubarb, muscovado specula, natural yoghurt and mountain bush pepper berry gel. An interesting mix of ingredients but the tanginess of the yoghurt helped to offset the sweetness of the white chocolate making it actually quite a refreshing dish. The rhubarb and muscovado added a level of sweetness that complemented the delice.
Our final dessert was the Creme Brûlée with Jasmine Tea, orange, lemon and bourbon vanilla. An unusual combination of flavours that all seemed to work together. The citrus flavours helped to balance the tea flavour so that it wasn’t too overpowering and the vanilla gave it an element of sweetness. A wonderful twist on the traditional Creme Brûlée.
One of the things I loved about my dinner at L’Hotel Gitan, aside from the food, is that the restaurant has a wonderfully warm feel to it and the interiors have been careful to keep the beautiful art deco elements giving it an old school feel in a modern environment. Hard to explain but you will understand when you visit. A gem of a find in Prahran.
L’Hotel Gitan, 32 Commercial Road, Prahran
03 9999 0990
Bookings taken either via phone or website