Finding an authentic French restaurant in St Helens our nearest town, was not something we considered at all likely. Being Francophiles and Italiophiles we spend a great deal of time eating out in France and Italy so our expectations are lowered a little in Australia.
Some locals had told us to go to Margot, but the outside of the building held absolutely no appeal to us, it looks like a builder’s spec home at the end of a cul de sac and without people actually telling us what they ate there or what was on the menu, it took some time to get there. We finally booked a table for two last Friday night.
Now in a former life I was paid to eat out and write restaurant reviews. So I do not want this post to be in the review genre, I simply want to share how much we liked this restaurant.
We skipped the entrees – but there’s plenty to choose from, firstly oysters are in a special category above the entrees, and offered in four separate ways. Entrees begin with a charred vegetable terrine served with Highland Tasmanian goats cheese. Another choice is a salad of king crab and mango. A ravioli of tiger prawns and ginger butter sauce is next on the list – I’ll have that please on a followup visit.
Still with me?…. the entrees also included asparagus soup with oysters; smoked quail with baby beetroots and caramelized walnuts. Seasonal and local food abound here.
The servings are much more generous than Margot’s peers are serving in their restaurants throughout Australia. Yet all the dishes still arrived elegantly plated. My ‘Fish of the Day’ – Trevalla was cooked perfectly and served on a light seafood bisque surrounded by sweet and petite lipped Tasmanian mussels.
We also had the Springfield venison with port wine sauce. Actually, this restaurant is one that I would trust anyone to order for me. Most of the time I can only find one dish I want in each course. On my list for next time is the main of crisp skin pork belly served with braised beef flank or if I wanted to be vegetarian for the night, a sage gnocchi served with roasted pumpkin and pinenuts would satisfy. Gnocchi and risotto I hardly ever eat out because it just has to be perfect and I would trust this restaurant to get them right. That is saying something.
We chose a side of vegetables and a mesclun salad with hazelnut oil dressing. When the salad arrived it would have served a table of four. The mixed vegetables arrived in a small polished copper saucepan. Both generous servings.
Although our hunger was no longer in need of satiating, dessert simply could not be overlooked. A perfectly poached rhubarb base supported two corrugated lacy sugar biscuits. In between the biscuit rafts we found a mound of salted caramel mousse and on top a scoop of sage flower enhanced ice cream.
The raspberry souffle ordered at another table was exuberantly tall and erect.
I caught a glimpse of the kitchen on my way to the loo and it is one of the largest I have seen outside of hotel restaurant kitchens and the copper batterie de cuisine burnished brightly as it hung above the cookers.
The owners ran a French restaurant in Sydney’s Crows Nest and obviously came to Tasmania for a lifestyle change. They live on acreage outside St Helens near the dairy district. Above the restaurant is a furnished apartment, so if you make a special trip to St Helens to eat at Margots you have an ideal place to stay and I think a dedicated trip is well worth it.
15 Pendrigh Place, St Helens 03 6376 62594