Casual and cozy, with a focus on the food and wine of France’s Burgundy region, the new bistro and bar on Keong Saik Road is reminiscent of dining at a friend’s place — homestyle fare, and a leisurely ambience that leaves you wanting to linger past the last drop of wine.
Gaston seems to take a page out of a vineyard cottage in its decor. It’s warm and welcoming, with detailed wood walls and shelves lined with books and pictures.
Disney associations with “Gaston” aside, the name is meant to evoke images of a genial grandfather-like figure, and it works. We feel quite at home surrounded by the chatter of the crowd and the French comfort food we’re served.
Gaston’s general manager Geoffrey Daurelle grew up on his family farm in the Burgundy countryside, and the menu, comprised of homemade classics from the region (and all meant to be shared plates among diners) reflects that origin nicely.
Boeuf bourguignon ($32) is a highlight in the selection, and of course it is — the dish is one of Burgundy’s most famous exports. Here, the velvety beef stew that simmers in red wine sauce is made with a recipe from the Daurelle family. Anywhere else, all the ingredients could be thrown together in a pot and left to cook, but Gaston’s rendition pays attention to every element, from the fork-tender beef to the smooth and sinful mash, which Daurelle merrily describes as “50 percent potato, 50 percent butter, 100 percent pleasure”.
But we’ve gotten ahead of ourselves. If you’re looking for a place to sit and sip while nibbling on light bites, this bistro is definitely one of the stand-outs along the bustling street. Its walk-in cellar, with almost 350 labels, takes you to Burgundy and beyond, with prices that are relatively affordable. For instance, happy hour goes from noon to 7pm daily, with $10 wine glasses.
However, Gaston’s not quite as wallet-friendly as its neighboring wine joints (The Wine & Gourmet Friends, Wine & Chef, and Wine Mansion) when it comes to vino beyond happy hour, though its cocktails (from $15) and beers/ciders (from $10) aren’t too bad. But if you think about it, bottles from Burgundy are usually considered pretty expensive anyway, and the bar makes a valiant effort to keep its wines reasonably priced with glasses from $14. Plus, it hosts a rotating wine flight of the week for interested diners.
Among the starters and sharing plates we sampled, the croquettes bourguignonnes ($9/three) were delightfully crispy and stuffed with a pleasantly stinky, creamy mix of ham and epoisses cheese (made from cow’s milk), while the homely oeufs en meurette ($13-$21) came in a pan of poached eggs swimming in red wine sauce with onions, button mushrooms, and bacon.
Kind of perfect for a melancholic rainy day.
If your cholesterol level isn’t quite ready for mashed potatoes that are half butter, try the truite à l’Aligoté ($28) instead, for a light dish of steamed trout fillet in white wine sauce with asparagus. Or go for the charcoal grilled barramundi ($28) that’s served in a basil and tomato stock.
Oh, and pair that (or anything, really) with a bowl of chopped up leek fondue ($8) which, we’ll admit, we’d never had before. But damn if it’s not the stuff of cheesy, buttery veggie dreams. Although between this and the mash, you may want to go slow and in moderation.
For a sweet touch at meal end, the éclair au cassis ($14) is a different take on your regular pastry, stuffed with cassis (blackcurrant) custard cream for a fruitier version that’s not so cloying. Otherwise, the flan pâtissier ($12) is another custard pie option that’s simple but scrumptious, served here in a generous slice filled with vanilla-infused cream on a buttery crust.
Gaston Burgundy Bistro & Wine Bar is at #01-01, 25 Keong Saik Rd.
6909-8120. Tues-Sat noon-midnight, Mon 5pm-midnight.
MRT: Outram Park