Camus A Revelation French Algerian Restaurant in Northcote
Camus is a revelation in Northcote; behind the humble entrance is a world of chic and nuance with French Algerian cuisine at its finest. The World Loves Melbourne was invited to experience Camus for a Friday luncheon.
Michelin star chef Pierre Khodja (below) is having fun with his playful menu; an expression of his soul and childhood fancies. Melbourne needed this restaurant, even in a sea of launches and openings. Honest food served with an element of sophistication; vibrant colours on the plate and subtle use of spices. We remember Pierre from Terminus on the Mornington Peninsula where he earned a hat four years running and where we were mesmerised by his cooking.
We enjoyed the ambience of the downstairs dining room; it's a dimly lit warm and engaging space with exposed brick, great use of timber and open kitchen with black tiles. We were also taken by the earthy tones of the plates to complement the colourful food.
Bring on the Saison to begin our French Algerian odyssey...
Calamari stuffed with prawns, mushroom borak is a wonderful starter, a meal in itself in fact. We've had a few stuffed calamari recently, and you can tell the superior technique and sophistication that went into this dish; presentation is first class, sauce is perfect, and filling compelling. A mushroom borek complimented the calamari and the calamari was of course cooked perfectly. And the colours of this dish are vibrant!
We've also enjoyed many a scallop dish recently, but again Pierre takes it to another level with Seared scallops, Jerusalem artichoke, fried chillies. And again the quality of the sauce stands out and a silky smooth artichoke texture perfectly complements the scallops. We enjoyed the overall balance of the dish and perfectly cooked scallops. Chilli gives welcome kick and the presentation is vibrant.
Share dishes include Baked whole snapper, okra, chermoula. What a combination! The white flesh of the snapper (one of our favourite fish) was compelling, with subtle use of spices. We loved the okra just on its own, but gave more "kick" to this dish, as did the subtle chermoula middle eastern spice. presentation of this dish was nothing short of spectacular. We find some fish dishes in Melbourne a little boring but Pierre brings an exciting fish dish to the table!
The piece de resistance is the Slow cooked goat, caramelised onions, apricot is the best goat dish we've had in Melbourne. Melt in your mouth slow cooked goat with fruity offset of apricot and the tang of onions. Again, note the perfect sauce for the dish and the stunning presentation.
Pierre told us he was having fun with his menu and this Cinnamon caramelised onions, corn, macaroni cheese is the best mac and cheese we've had in Melbourne. Some mac and cheese in Melbourne trades off texture but lacks in taste. This mac and cheese is tasty and textural, and a quality cheese used in the dish with a nuance of caramelisation on top.
We had to show this - art on a plate.
Apart from the downstairs dining room, there's also an upstairs space and a courtyard (being built at time of writing).
The wine list matches the sophistication of the food; we enjoyed wines by the glass and we loved the journey.
We were taken by the aesthetics of the dishes as well as the taste; felt like getting out my easel and paintbrush. Elegant charming and vibrant dishes.
What we haven't mentioned to date is the alluring aroma of the experience at Camus. An added dimension compared to many dining experiences in Melbourne. The meal took a twist with the advent of Turkish Tea - sweet and aromatic it's a must order at Camus.
And then followed one of the desserts of the year; Turkish delight souffle, pistachio baklava, halva ice cream. A taste and texture triumph with mystery surrounding how Pierre gets the delicate Turkish delight flavours through the souffle. Each element was stunning in itself. Another must order dish. Together with the Turkish Tea this was a seriously rewarding combination.
From above, once again this dessert is presented beautifully.
Pierre Khodja has worked wonders at Camus, and the service we received was top notch. The massive collection of spices above the open kitchen are a testament to Pierre's commitment to authenticity and nuances.
Of course we've read Camus. In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. Camus restaurant is the "invincible summer".