Fino Willunga is dead. Long live Le Mistral, as the new French eatery is a more than worthy replacement of the McLaren Vale favourite.
In France, ‘le mistral’ is the name given to a strong, north-westerly wind that blows from the south of the country through to the Gulf of Lion in the Mediterranean.
In South Australia, it is the name of the latest eatery to land in Willunga, at the previous address of the widely acclaimed Fino Willunga, no less.
Le Mistral has big shoes to fill. I’ve not seen this venue as quiet as it is today, and I can’t understand why. Perhaps people haven’t heard about the delicious food being delivered by these new recruits?
The first appetiser displays the best of French cuisine. A rough tart cooked “flamenkuch” style features a thin crispy lightly puffed base, piled with crème fraîche, thinly sliced shallots and lardons. This tart is a thing of buttery perfection. Simple and delicious.
Middle-cooked tuna sits amongst a leafy salad of watercress, fennel and orange segments. Coated in a pepper crust – this is some of the best tuna I’ve had. It is simply treated with respect and is lightly seasoned, dressed in olive oil and olives for balance.
‘Beurre d ’escargot’ translated means buttery snails. And aren’t they ever. These succulent little mollusks are blended with earthy mushrooms and stuffed into a free-formed pastry.
Snail dishes can rarely be called pretty; this one is and is topped with flower petals and sits on a sauce of roasted garlicky tomato.
Filet de Boeuf avec pommes de terre Rattes is a flawlessly-seasoned round of Angus fillet that falls apart with minimal encouragement. It rests on a bed of crunchy beans and snow peas that have barely kissed the pan, with medallions of scalloped potatoes soaking up a well-balanced jus.
A slice of pan-fried foie gras is a naughty addition that is as delicious as it is guilt-inducing. Nicely-cooked duck fillets are glazed with a delectable Grand Marnier sauce and served with heirloom vegetables, a sweet carrot and ginger coulis.
A baked carrot flan resembles polenta in appearance but not taste. Fluffy in texture, it’s soufflé-like. This faultless dish sits leagues above your typical duck à l’orange.
There is something about French desserts that can make you weak at the knees, and Le Mistral’s sweet menu is no exception as we choose three delectable desserts.
For the Crème Brûlée, they use organic vanilla beans and quality demerara blowtorched to create a crisp layer of caramelised toffee that gives a satisfying crack. The brûlée itself has been (expectedly) prepared in advance, and while smooth and velvety in texture is still a little too cool from refrigeration. Marquise au chocolat is plated with artistry – almost too good to eat – but we eagerly delve into this decadent miracle of chocolaty pleasure.
Chantilly cream adds a creamy texture and tart berry coulis delivers oodles of flavour. Good quality cocoa is sprinkled over the top to give it a light bitter edge. This is as exquisite as any French dessert I’ve tried.
The final installation of our dessert trilogy is a classic Grand Marnier Soufflé that rises from its ramekin and balances precariously atop its internal pillow of air. Broken to reveal a creamy, slightly eggy centre – this is another dish that has been prepared in traditional fashion with no fuss, but with resounding success.
Put simply, Le Mistral will blow you away – to the shores of Provence and beyond.
8 Hill Street, Willunga
Lunch: Wednesday to Sunday (12pm-3pm)
Dinner: Wednesday to Saturday (6pm-9pm)
Photography: Jonathan VDK