Butter, pastry, foie gras and wine: it’s safe to say French food has long had a rep for being loaded up with rich, heavy ingredients that put it in the ‘can’t eat all the time’ box. But there are many more sides to French cuisine than its gut-busting potential – and, along with those beautiful cream-loaded dishes, breads and pates, it’s these many facets that the team at Loulou want to show off.

“People think of French food as butter and cream, but in regions like Provence, it’s more about olive oil, and lighter sauces, and tomato- and vegetable-based dishes rather than butter and cream,” says Ned Parker, Loulou’s head chef.

Sure, you’ll still find those heavier dishes on the Loulou menu (hello, pommes dauphine and John Dory farci with champagne sauce). But there’s an array of other plates that lean more on those lighter bases and ingredients: grilled octopus with a sauce bouillabaisse – a tomato-y, herb-y and onion-y concoction – as well as a stunning confit rainbow trout doused in a tomato-based sauce Provençale and fennel. It’s not just lighter ingredients that mean you can keep coming back for more at Loulou, though.

“It’s the way we plate the dishes as well,” says Sebastien Lutaud, Etymon’s Director of Culinary. “For example, in France, bouillabaisse would be a big portion, with bread on the side. We’re trying to do a dish that’s a little more elegant.”

And at Loulou, diners needn’t follow an entrée-main-dessert structure. You’re encouraged to pop by during your lunch break for a burger or steak frites, share a couple of entrees for dinner and head on your way, or go the whole all the way by ordering the entire menu and splitting it with a big group.

“We have a blue cheese salad that’s really light,” says Lutaud. “It’s not heavy, the dressing is acidic, it’s a good lunch salad. It’s still a take on French food, we’re obviously using those French techniques, but it’s done for the Australian palate as well.”

Working with the seasons – what people want to eat at any given time of year, and what produce is available – also often equates to lighter dishes.

“We work with the seasons – a lot of French restaurants do work with the seasons, but those bistro classics never change,” says Lutaud. “We really focus on what’s available at the time, so the menu goes from light [in the warmer months] to heavier in the winter.”

This lighter approach means repeat visits are encouraged – some regulars come twice a week. It also leaves room for the sweet stuff.

“What we notice at Loulou, with the lighter style of French food we are cooking, is that people aren’t feeling overly full by dessert time and so they are enjoying some of our beautiful French desserts too,” says Lutaud.

Loulou Bistro, Boulangerie and Traiteur is located at 61 Lavender St, Milson’s Point | Visit www.loulou.sydney for more information

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