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Festival an opportunity to savour French flavours

Eat | Drink | Explore

Contemporary French cuisine in all its delectable diversity will take centre stage alongside an eclectic line-up of live music, art and couture at the Adelaide Festival Centre’s inaugural French Festival this weekend.

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Kicking off on Friday with So Frenchy So Chic in Elder Park, the three-day festival will feature a Gastronomie offering on the Festival Centre’s Riverdeck, including a Pol Roget Bar and food by La Buvette, La Provence, Crepe Bar and The Smelly Cheese Shop, plus a lavish La Soiree Cliché banquet emceed by SBS Food Safari‘s Maeve O’Meara.

Frenchman Dominique Lentz, owner of Gresham Street small bar La Buvette, sees the event as an exciting opportunity to showcase a more modern style of French food with which many Australians may not be familiar.

“It’s really positive – we work on the same page [as the festival organisers] because they want to bring some modernism, some young blood into the Fresh Festival, so it’s going to be really dynamic.

“They want it to be vibrant and lively.”

La Buvette will have a food stall selling croque-monsieur at So Frenchy So Chic in the Park – a concert featuring French musicians Fefe, Junior, General Elektriks and L.E.J. – and will also be present on Saturday and Sunday at Gastronomie on the Riverdeck, serving a baguette with chicken marinated in French herbs, a lentil and radish-based vegetarian salad, and cones filled with charcuterie, French cheese, cornichons and onions.

Most of the offerings reflect the food at the Parisian-style La Buvette, which is first and foremost a “drinkery” but also has a menu which includes a range of imported French cheeses, charcuterie and sharing boards.

“We have found people are eager to try all things French – it’s been a really, really positive response since the day we first opened our doors,” says Lentz, who has been in Australia for 12 years and made Adelaide his home after meeting his Australian partner Hayley.

“People tend to be surprised at first when they see our space and what’s on offer – there’s no Edith Piaf playing in the background. We do play French music but it’s more contemporary.

“There is more and more French influence in Adelaide … I would like to see a contemporary, more modern French touch.”

Nathan Nababan, director and manager of North Adelaide’s Cliché, which is presenting La Soiree Cliché banquet, is also keen to promote the diversity of French food, especially that from different regions.

“There can be a misconception that French food is mainly butter and creamy, which is not entirely true … the cuisine has evolved into a lighter version,” Nababan says.

“And in the south of France, where there’s a border with Spain and Italy, there is a lot of that kind of influence on the food as well.”

La Soiree Cliché, to be presented in the Adelaide Festival Centre’s Banquet Room on Saturday night, is an evening of food, art and music, with a live display of body painting by Emma Hack and music by Baby et Lulu, featuring Abby Dobson (Leonardo’s Bride) and Lara Goodridge (FourPlay String Quartet).

Nababan says Cliché executive chef Fabien Streit will present a three-course banquet including prawn and lobster crepes in a mildly spiced sauce, choux pastry escargot, slow-braised bourguignon beef cheek, and apple tarte tartin with frangipani puff pastry and Calvados ice-cream.

In addition, Cliché will have a stall at So Frenchy So Chic selling items such as duck crepe a l’orange, crispy pork belly baguette and a beef-cheek beignet.

French cheese, wine and champagne masterclasses, and a patisserie demonstration and “junior sous chef workshop” by Le Cordon Bleu culinary institute, are also part of the Adelaide French Festival.

The broader program includes concerts by acts such as French pop group Francois and the Atlas Mountains (read interview with member Francois Marry here),  chanteuse Caroline Nin, pianist Frédéric Vaysse-Knitter, and Adelaide’s Zephyr Quartet; theatre shows, film, the Gathered craft market and a Couture Collection fashion showcase. See the full program here.

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