Pierre’s on George

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88 George St, Launceston
03) 6331 6835
Open: Breakfast and lunch Mon; Breakfast, lunch, and dinner Tues to Sat from 8.30am.

Pierres had been feeding and coffeeing Launcestonians for 51 years before it was sold in 2007. It had the city’s first espresso machine and had obviously been a leader of the city’s culinary scene at one stage of its life. Fifty years on it was still popular but little about the dark, elongated interior or what was on the plate seemed to have moved very much with the times.

Walk into Pierres today and you won’t recognize it as the same space. The new owners, Sarah and Rohan Birchmore, and designer/consultant chef, Xavier Mouche, have transformed it into an ultra-stylish bistro with striking red and black décor, comfortable banquettes, a beautiful service bar under a massive sky light, a floor-to-ceiling display of vintage French wines in bottles and magnums, a private function room and a delightful enclosed space at the back for an alfresco drink or nibble under some leafy birches.

The food too has been transformed – rillettes, croquet Monsieur, la soupe au pistou, duck liver parfait, escargot with garlic, entrecote with Café de Paris butter, profiteroles and crepe Suzette…

With menus composed by Mouche, ex The Regent and Bathers Pavilion in Sydney, and prepared by chef Mathew Adams, ex Launceston’s very successful Mud Bar and Restaurant, this is quintessential French fare, older, if you like, than the former Pierres’ first menu. But such classics are timeless and are right on track with the popular French bistro resurgence that has swept Sydney and Melbourne these past few years. Both timeless and timely for, apart from the excellent Le Provencal here in Hobart, it’s the sort of uncomplicated, comforting food that we’ve been missing in Tasmania for too long. And proof of its welcome in Launceston was the fact that, on the day of my visit, that most French of all French dishes, snails, had sold out.

Scattered alongside the French onion soup and meuniere fish of the day are a few more mainstream items such as open-faced sandwiches, crisp foccacia and a beef burger with tomato chilli jam at lunch and lobster ravioli, pan-seared calamari and a prawn and a mushroom risotto on the dinner menu.

At lunch, the “traditional steak tartare” was nicely presented but a little less traditional than I personally would have liked while a rack of Flinders Island lamb Provencal was great – beautifully juicy, rested to a uniform pinkness and accompanied by a wonderfully flavoursome assortment of garlicky braised vegetables.

There’s an excellent wine list with, something rarely seen today, a good selection of halves including an almost irresistible few from Bordeaux. And then there are those other bottles and magnums of French the Birchmores brought with them from their former wine merchant business in London. The food is enough to tempt a trip to Launceston but, if not, then the wines would be.

Entrees from $8 for the soupe au pistou to $28 for the steak tartare; mains between $22 and $29

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