Bistro Flor on Nicholson St North Carlton has been on my list of dinner destinations for months, and when I finally went for the first time last week I was very impressed. My dinner companion had eaten there before and provided a sound recommendation that I am glad to pass on. It used to be a wine bar called Flor but expanded to become a cosy local bistro about 2008.
We began with ordering one of my favourite Victorian wines from the impressive list: the Point Leo Road lagrein (from the Mornington Peninsula) which, at $50, was well priced. It’s not as dense as a shiraz; it’s more like an intense pinot noir, and it perfectly suited our meals.
Dinner began at twilight and progressed into the evening: consequently the entree photos are better than those of the mains as the light was in the process of disappearing. For entree I ordered porcini croquettes with truffle aïoli (above), and my friend chose eggplant polpette with tzatziki and tabbouleh (below). Both were delicious (we swapped to compare).
For mains my friend ordered the pot roast Rutherglen lamb with moghrabieh, fennel, broad beans and mint (above), and I selected the twice cooked half duck with sour cherries (below). We shared some rosemary roasted potatoes (bottom). Apart from the potatoes, there was no sharing and far less talking as we devoured these dishes. The duck was tender and perfectly cooked, and the lagrein enhanced the sour cherry flavour of the sauce accompanying it.
I couldn’t recall seeing any previous reviews for Bistro Flor but on searching I found the following: dinner was perhaps first reviewed by Gourmet husbands, followed by Food and wine scribe, and breakfast by Breakfast out, all in 2008, followed by lunch by Eat almost anything and Bubblegumscanlan in 2010.
Our bill, including the wine, came to $160. It’s not a cheap place but it provides good value for money as the food was excellent and the service was attentive but low key. It’s very satisfying to enjoy (and then review) a restaurant like Bistro Flor because when you have few expectations it’s relatively easy for them to be exceeded. In contrast, excessive hype can have poor results.
My only criticism concerns the limited selection of wines available by the glass, because the glass list may not have provided a suitable selection for everything on the menu, whereas the bottle list is diverse. Fortunately on this occasion my usual preference to match each course with a glass was overcome by the rare opportunity to taste the lagrein.
If you are planning a leisurely fine dinner near Nicholson St, Bistro Flor is a credible alternative to the long established Mon Ami (further south on the Fitzroy side of Nicholson St). I’d also like to try Aux Batifolles (another French bistro on the North Fitzroy side close to Bistro Flor).
Three bistros does not a French quarter make, but there is an argument for saying the Carlton / Fitzroy / Collingwood area has the best French cafes and restaurants in Melbourne: in addition to these three the list includes La Niche cafe, Boire, Monsieur Truffe, Breizioz creperie and Madame Sousou. That’s a lot of options within a 30 minute walk!