You really have to commend the French. They've given us croquembouche, perfected the nine-course meal, and even invented the word 'cuisine'. But if Gaulish food isn’t your feast of choice, also keep in mind that the French bond with each other by pouring melted cheese on things.
Surry Hills' newly-opened Loluk celebrates melted cheese every Tuesday night with an all-you-can-eat special. This ceremony is known by the French as raclette and it involves warming a large wheel of cheese on a special machine and scraping off a velvety chunk of heaven right on top of your seasoned potatoes and charcuterie. And for dessert there are profiteroles (remember: it’s all you can eat). A glass of rosé on the side is optional but encouraged.
"In France, you can find raclette everywhere,“ says Loluk's founder Luc la Joye. “It inspires convivialité. It’s a classic tradition that unites people.” Convivialité describes a dynamic, yet relaxed gathering of people from one’s life. It's Sunday brunch with the family, or raclette and rosé for after-work drinks.
Luc and his brother, Loic came from a food-loving family in Nice. After working in Australia for a bit, they noticed a Provence-shaped hole in Sydney's food scene. So, with their mother's recipes in hand, Loluk filled the gap.
"We only wanted to introduce to customers what we couldn't find in Australia," la Joye says.
Provence sits on the border of France and Italy, and has benefited from centuries of culinary crossfire. This is best experienced in Loluk's best main, duck breast with homemade gnocchi.
As a whole, the food is lighter than both French and Italian cuisines, and there’s a far lower risk of death by butter or olive oil. Vegetables are generally Mediterranean: tomato, capsicum, cauliflower and artichoke are often grilled or roasted.
A good entrée includes pissaladière. It's a tart of caramelised onions, anchovies and black olives in pâte brisée (pastry) made in-house. "It’s a good niçois choice. This and a lot of our menu is food only found in Nice," says la Joye.
Much of the antipasti plate is also endemic to the region: tapenade (finely chopped olives and anchovies with Ricard aperitif), zucchini flowers, artichoke, confit tomato and the aforementioned pissaladière.
If you’ve made it to dessert you’re doing well (assuming you've also polished off some bread, and the cheese platter), but the lavender creme brûlée wraps up both the meal and the whole ‘Southern France’ feel very well.
The drinks list is a comprehensive index of French aperitifs, wines and beers. On Sunday, there's bottomless Kir Royale, a refreshing drink that blends Champagne and crème de cassis (blackberry liqueur).
"We want to show customers that French cuisine is more diverse than just beef tartare," says la Joye, "But also that the way food is made in Provence is quite detached from regular French cuisine."
Lead image: Instagram - Loluk Bistro
Loluk is open Tuesday to Sunday, 6pm-10pm and also 12pm-3pm on Sundays. 2/411 Bourke St, Surry Hills NSW