With bistro classics, a polished setting and benchmark wines, La Bastide is making its mark as an essential French destination.
After opening at the end of the year, La Bastide has continued into the new year strongly, with Michelle Natta and Rob Breden’s French-style bistro drawing diners to Shenton Park from afar with its polished setting and cut-above French fare. Featuring a swish terrace, elegant fixtures, exposed brick offset with handsome light fittings and marble accents, along with a polished bar and vintage French posters on the walls, the scene is set for a menu of classics, given just enough of a nudge towards the now.
Think hand-cut beef tartare with pommes gaufrettes and an egg yolk or blushing magret de canard making waves as one of the city’s most in-demand duck dishes. Add a menu of vienoisserie and coffee for weekend brunch and a wine list that puts benchmark French drops alongside storied locals and it’s a clean sweep. We caught up the team to see how they’re faring.
Michelle, La Bastide is fast becoming known as the “little bistro that could” – both you and your partner Rob have come from careers outside hospitality on this new adventure. How did it all come about?
Rob and I have a long-standing passion for France and French food and wine. We have spent a lot of time in France, particularly in Provence. Complementing these interests, Rob’s brother Tim is a classically trained French chef.
A lightbulb moment occurred when the opportunity to occupy the iconic neighbourhood restaurant premises at 225 Onslow Road, Shenton Park presented in late 2022 (previously home to Petite Mort and, before that, Star Anise). With our passion for France, bistro cuisine and French wines it was the perfect time to convince Tim (who had been living overseas and interstate for many years) to return to Perth to be our head chef. Combining such a well-respected hospitality location in Shenton Park with Tim’s culinary skills and experience, Rob’s interest in French wines and my background in branding and business development, we had all of the key ingredients to create a new neighbourhood French bistro. After much work on the development of this concept, undertaking a massive refit (in particular creating our blue bar) La Bastide was born.
Rob has been importing European wines into WA for over 12 years – a fact that many only know through the generous conversation he offers at the table when hosting. How does his passion for wine influences the menu or vice versa?
Wine is a fundamental and passionate focus at La Bastide. Our wine list is the result of our lifelong interest in wine, from growing up with parents who enjoyed Hunter Valley and Margaret River classics to living overseas and tasting and enjoying wines from around the world, particularly France. We believe strongly that most wines drink better when accompanied by food.
These experiences and this philosophy have resulted in a carefully curated wine list inspired by the classic French wine regions of Champagne, Burgundy, Bordeaux and the Rhône. With a broad selection of wines on our list, you can taste a range of wines that have been chosen to match with and enhance the dishes on our menu.
Rob is passionate about creating the opportunity for people to try new wines and to explore wines of different ages and regions to assist them in deciding what they like (or don’t like). This has driven our extensive by-the-glass offering, which includes a wide range of varieties and rare and aged wines.
The natural place of duck breast (magret de canard) on our food menu lends itself to the classic pairing with wines from Burgundy, the Southern Rhône and Sauternes. These wines feature prominently on our wine list, including many aged wines from these regions.
We like to give venues a bit of time to settle in before we try and determine what a venue is, what it isn’t and if it’s achieving what it’s set out to do. Are you ready to answer that? What story is the venue telling so far?
I think we had a very clear concept of what we wanted to be from the start – a modern take on a traditional French bistro with very good but not fussy French food and an interesting, accessible wine list.
We also wanted to be the sort of venue where people feel comfortable to drop in, both formally and informally, whether that be for a business lunch or a lunch with friends, for an afternoon apéritif on our sunny terrace or a post-work drink at our bar, for a casual dinner with family and friends, or a special dinner to celebrate an important occasion. This is very much the venue that La Bastide is proving to be and it is exciting for us to watch it develop and see our guests enjoy La Bastide in all of its different incarnations.
How have the locals embraced La Bastide?
The support from our wonderful local community has been amazing. Connecting with our guests and making new friends was an important consideration for us when opening La Bastide. We feel very fortunate that the Shenton Park community has embraced the concept of a neighbourhood French bistro that’s open for lunch, drinks and dinner and, on weekends, breakfast.
In French the name La Bastide refers to a home (big or small, fancy or humble) where people congregate to eat and drink. This is exactly the atmosphere we hoped to create by offering people the opportunity to be able to drop into La Bastide at any time, both formally and informally. It has been wonderfully heartwarming for us to see La Bastide emerge as a part of the local community.
When you and Rob head out into the wild on a rare day off, where do you go to eat and drink?
Twenty Seats, Todd Stewart’s new restaurant in Highgate (which he opened after Petite Mort), is big favourite. We’ve always loved Todd’s food and count Todd, Su and Remy as very good (and now also hospo) friends.
We also love Asian and fusion food. There is a small restaurant in Nedlands that serves Thai street food called Ma Kin which makes the freshest and tastiest Thai – we eat there at least once a week. We also love dim sum and often eat at Eight On The Point.
Your chef Tim Breden keeps a pretty low profile – let’s change that and get him to answer this one! Chef Breden, what’s been popular at the bistro so far?
Tim Breden: Our guests love the French classics. Our magret de canard and steak frites have been our most popular dishes, and they’re closely followed by our steak tartare, assiette de charcuterie, parfait de canard maison, kingfish cru and fresh oysters. In saying that, I feel as if I have overlooked our croquette-monsieurs and asparagus Polonaise, which have both been enormously popular as well.
My team and I also prepare plats du jour – daily specials – which are written up on our blackboards. Recently these have included duck confit with grilled nectarine salad, grilled tiger prawns and bisque and grilled kangaroo with crushed peas and saltbush. We only prepare these dishes in limited amounts and they often sell out during service.
…and you can’t leave La Bastide without trying our desserts, even if to share. Our bay crème brûlée, fondant au chocolat noir and sorbet du chef (which is currently raspberry and hazelnut) are customer favourites.
Are there any favourite West Australian producers who have really stood out to you since opening?
TB: There are many wonderful Western Australian producers and suppliers who have supported La Bastide from the outset.
We’re particularly proud to serve Wagin Duck, a product which I believe is unmatched in other parts of Australia. It is sustainably grown and locally available. The flavour and texture of the duck enhances all of the techniques I bring to it as a chef. I also know that our ducks taste as good as they do because are raised in an environment that is conducive to healthy, happy ducks. We receive whole ducks each week and spend many hours breaking these down and using as much of the duck as possible across our various dishes (magret, confit, parfait, rillettes, sauces).
Fresh and seasonal is a key supply philosophy and we are very happy to work with Morley Growers Market for our fruit and vegetables and Perth Seafoods who supply our fish and oysters.
What does 2023 look like for the bistro both in the kitchen and in terms of the hours you’re opening?
TB: We are determined to be seasonal. This means our menu will soon be changing to incorporate more cool weather fruit, vegetables and other produce.
We will also be incorporating more wintery slow cooked and braised dishes as the weather becomes cooler. We have so many dishes in our back catalogue that the hardest part is deciding which ones we won’t include on our menu. Stay tuned.