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Madame Sousou (closed)

I think of Fitzroy as my 'hood, and as such, I have travelled Brunswick Street many, many times. There is a point just south of Johnston Street where the shops start to dwindle away; things seem quieter. On the corner of Bell Street is a charming, olde-world-looking restaurant called Madame Sousou (231 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy), with neatly arranged footpath tables and chairs facing the street - just like how they do it in Europe. It looks warm, inviting, traditional and European - many of my favourite things! But it was only recently that I tried it for the first time.

My best friend happened to have an Entertainment Book voucher for Madame Sousou, so we thought we'd give it a try. I'd like to point out here that both my friend and I are seasoned diners, and have been happy to pay exorbitant prices for meals, many times in the past. The Entertainment Book seemed a good way to try venues we hadn't been to, and at a saving - and who doesn't like to save a bit of dosh?! But we are by no means miserly when it comes to the bill - especially when the venue is deserving. Unfortunately this time, I'm not sure it was.

Many others have lauded Madame Sousou for its French fare and excellent breakfasts. We were there for dinner on a weeknight and honestly, it wasn't that impressive. We had a glass of wine outside first (it being not too cold for a winter's night), and had to flag the waiter down to order our drinks. The first wine we wanted wasn't in stock. Not a good start! But the waiter did apologise for the delay, and suggested a perfectly nice replacement wine.

Moving inside, we were seated by the window, which gave us a lovely aspect of the street and restaurant interior. Our waiter was new - in fact, this was his first shift - so we were prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt if there were any slip-ups. However, our table service seemed to alternate between him and a more senior staff member... perhaps not so much room for forgiveness, then. The senior staff member made a face when we enquired which dishes were eligible for the Entertainment Voucher. Hmm. Was this not a program you guys willingly signed up for?

We ordered oysters and mains (from the senior staff member), and got down to business: catching up over our wine. Forty minutes had passed before we realised we hadn't received our oysters. In my friend's words... How long does it take to shuck an oyster?! When we enquired, the oysters were brought out quickly, and the waiter redeemed himself by providing us with a complimentary sparkling each, by way of apology. Me, I'm always happy to be bribed with alcohol ;)

And then, the mains. I had ordered the salmon, which was cooked OK - its sauce was nice. My friend had ordered a steak 'medium-rare', and it came out totally overcooked, done 'well'.

The chips and salad that accompanied it were again, OK - fine, but nothing special. The bread and butter were fresh and lovely.

I noted that our used glasses and plates were not cleared off the table for a long time, despite there only being several other tables of diners in the restaurant at the time. I'm glad we had the Entertainment voucher, because overall, I don't think the meal was worth paying full price for.

I did very much enjoy the décor of the venue: warm, dimly lit and elegant, lovely chandeliers, and the French music overhead was pleasant, too. The tiny bathrooms seemed to be fairly environmentally-friendly (plus), however the toilet paper dispenser was broken, and the soap dispenser nearly empty (minus).

I was heartened by the fact that the staff tried to rectify their wrongs; however, it really takes exemplary service, accessibility to staff, and care taken to keep the small things in order, as well as great food, drinks, vibe, décor and a unique angle, to cut it as an awesome restaurant these days -- especially in a highly competitive area like Brunswick Street. To be fair, we could have been there on an 'off' night, so I'd like to try Madame Sousou again - perhaps for breakfast, which seems to be well-regarded by locals. But I'll be looking for my French dinners elsewhere for a while.

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