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Behind the Menu: Le Mistral


Precision without pretention is the goal of Tarik Marco and Sandrine Maltret, whose Willunga restaurant Le Mistral reflects a culture in which ‘la pause repas’ (the meal break) is still considered sacred.

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The couple, who are originally from France and moved to Willunga in 2015, opened Le Mistral earlier this year on the site previously occupied by David Swain and Sharon Romeo’s Fino, and are now well-established as part of the Fleurieu Peninsula dining scene.

Chef Tarik tells InDaily his cooking style is influenced by his early culinary memories growing up in Provence, and says he and Sandrine seek to share a taste of the French lifestyle through their restaurant.

The kitchen culture at Le Mistral is …

One where it is easy to work, with the main goal being customer satisfaction. The kitchen is quite open, so the guests can feel the vibe in it. We focus on delivering the best French food with precision, without pretension and with a smile – even during a busy service (it takes a lot of work to achieve that).

Who are you cooking for?

Almost everyone, from local winemakers hosting business lunches and residents who enjoy our special “menu du jour”, to international visitors and holidaymakers. We have an alfresco area with a view of the garden where we host parties and groups.

Basically, we cater for both formal and casual dining.

Describe the current menu.

The menu is still on the edge of the winter period, with warm and hearty meals (boeuf bourguignon, coq au vin, cassoulet), but it is evolving towards spring cuisine. This means more seafood and lighter dishes, like ceviche of kingfish with spicy coconut dressing and smoked capsicum; mackerel with escabeche and lime and oregano reduction; the classic bouillabaisse, and our revisited French spring specialty “blanquette de veau” (veal in white wine sauce, pictured below).

Of course we aim for consistency, but the menu is also flexible, so we can make changes depending on what fresh produce is available. We are blessed with great produce in South Australia.

We like to surprise our guests with new items among their favourites; sometimes it changes just for two or three weeks to reflect what’s in season.

What does it seek to achieve?

We want to share the French lifestyle. That lifestyle is not only about food (or love!), but food is a key part of the French culture. People take a break for lunch or dinner not just to be fed, but to enjoy and share what they have on their plate with their friends or loved ones.

La pause repas (meal break) is still sacred in France.

Who or what has had the greatest influence on your cooking?

I’ve been greatly influenced by Mediterranean cuisine, probably because I grew up in the region, with olive oil, garlic, wines, tapenade, basil, thyme, tartes tropezienne, crème brûlée … all these tastes guide my culinary memories.

In terms of people, there’s chefs Alain Ducasse (after more than 30 years, he is still so modern and innovative) and Anne Sophie Pic (an amazing chef who brings this “female” twist in her creations).

What is your favourite dish on Le Mistral’s current menu?

The orange duck with Grand Marnier sauce (served with carrot ginger coulis and carrot flan with slow-cooked golden beetroot and radish). It’s inspired by the classic canard à l’orange, with modern techniques combined with some exotic flavours and textures.

What is your favourite food and wine match?

Dark chocolate and Noon Eclipse red wine (from McLaren Vale winemakers Merci Rae and Drew Noon) if I’m in a sweet mood, or cheese, bread and red wine in a big glass. It’s casual and easy.

I’ve discovered how amazing the South Australian wines are, especially those from McLaren Vale, and now I’m proud to show them to French visitors. Some of our favourites are Angoves’ The Medhyk, Gemtree’s The Phantom (2012 release) … oh, and Fox Creek’s Shiraz is really beautiful. I feel guilty quoting only these three – the region is full of great wineries and we have almost 100 on our menu.

What are you cooking at home?

I spend a lot of time in the kitchen and generally in the restaurant so at home I want it to be simple, quick and tasty. I love red meat but chicken is my favourite – it’s so versatile and easy, whether barbecued, cooked in the oven or eaten cold in a salad.

Le Mistral
8 Hill Street, Willunga, ph 8556 4488
Open for lunch and dinner, Wednesday to Sunday

Sandrine Maltret preparing a table in Le Mistral. Photo: Heidi Who Photos

Sandrine Maltret preparing a table in Le Mistral. Photo: Heidi Who Photos

Blanquette de Veau (veal in white wine sauce with heirloom vegetables). Photo: Heidi Who Photos

Blanquette de Veau (veal in white wine sauce with heirloom vegetables). Photo: Heidi Who Photos

Crème brûlée with passionfruit. Photo: Heidi Who Photos

Crème brûlée with passionfruit. Photo: Heidi Who Photos

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