Ahhh the French. They have given us so much. Great food and wine, romantic and moody movies of strained love and passionate sex, the world’s largest aircraft and a fantastic pepper mill. Anna Hager goes in search of the quintessential and most memorable French cultural icons to help celebrate their National Day, Bastille Day.

If Captain Cook was a couple of days late, we’d all be speaking French right now. The French could have planted a flag and proclaimed their new territory. They just missed out, but that doesn’t mean you have to. We’ll show you where to enjoy the best of the French this Bastille Day, July 14.

Ahhh Champagne Oui Oui

There are a number of places to indulge in the finest French product that will never be bested  – Champagne.  Here are our picks of the best Champagne Bars in Australia:

Sydney: Velluto in Sydney’s Potts Point has a superb list worth perusing.

Perth: The private Champagne Lounge in Perth’s Must Bar has the most comprehensive list of unusual and special champagnes in the country.

Melbourne: Spice Market in the basement of the Grand Hyatt Melbourne has a private den dedicated to one of the great Champagnes – the Belle Epoque lounge.

Brisbane: Cuvee in the Sofitel Brisbane says it all.

Ahhh Escargot,  oui oui

The greatest symbol of French cuisine, Escargot has been a staple of many European national diets but is so terribly French these days.
To indulge in this slimy treat,  visit the Hunter Valley’s Snails Bon Appetite. Robert and Helen Dyball have been snail farming here for over 10 years, fulfilling a life long dream to produce farm fresh Escargot. They encourage visitors, you just need to make an appointment.

If you really love snails you can actually join the Snails Bon Appetite Growers Network. As Helen says: “They’re quite light. They’re beautiful little animals you will become attached to. ” We’ll have to take her word for it.  

Ahhh Haute Cuisine, Oui Oui

The humble croissant is another food stuff usurped by the French. Thought to stem from Austrian bakers celebrating victory over the Turks, the crescent moon-shaped pastries are now firmly owned by the French. But that’s not to dismiss the other great French pastries, flans and desserts. We love a great eclair or mousse.
Get into the Bastille Day mood and  let yourself eat cake at the Paris International Cooking School in Sydney’s Stanmore or Dish du Jour in Melbourne’s Prahran.

And for those of you with no inclination to get your hands dirty, the best fancy French restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne:

Melbourne: Bistro Guillame 
Sydney: Bilson’s Number One

Brisbane is getting right into the spirit Bastille Day with the  Brisbane French Festival. On July 17 Southbank will be transformed into a French market place complete with cooking demonstrations, fashion parade, stalls and roaming street art.

Did You Know?

A piece of Australia was actually French Sovereign soil for quite some time. Mon Repos, about 14 kilometres east of Bundaberg, was owned by the French between 1890 and 1925 as the site of a cable station to New Caledonia.