Monday, September 29

Food Review: The French Cafe

Cuisine: French
Price: $320 for 4 courses and 3 alcoholic drinks
Location: 210 Symonds Street, Auckland

The French Cafe is ranked as one of Auckland’s best restaurants, and is certainly one of the most expensive. When I first arrived in Auckland I promised myself that once I found a job, I would reserve a table and eat there. Their waiting list was eight weeks long, so eight weeks after being employed I finally entered this revered restaurant. On this blustery, cold, day we were greeted by the friendly doorman and led into the dining area. I immediately appreciated a small, but significant touch. The dining area was located far away from the entrance. It meant that we were protected from the cold drafts, that would inevitably invade when people entered or exited. I’d been in far too many cold restaurants as of late, so the warmth was appreciated! The interior of the restaurant was simple and downplayed, yet elegant. It’s exactly the motif I like, as opposed to lavish and extravagant. The waiters were extremely helpful and knowledgeable and were happy to explain The French Cafe's menu. The tasting menu was recommended, though we went for the al a carte in order to try a greater breadth of dishes. We chose two items from each course:

First: Snapper ceviche and Duck confit
Second: Caramelised pork belly and Roasted goats cheese
Third: Boneless lamb and Aged beef
Fourth: Cheese board and Poached rhubarb

The three complimentary dishes, which came between each course, were a lovely surprise. Keep in mind the menu at The French Cafe is seasonal, so regularly changes. It certainly gives you incentive to come back! We also ordered a couple of cocktails to wet our tongues.

The First's the snapper ceviche was disappointing, considering how highly the waiter recommended it. It was light and fresh, but the flavour lacked any punch and it was under salted. The duck was more pleasant, the meat incredibly tender and the berries adding a fruity note. Luckily the dinner kept on getting better.

The Second was a far more enjoyable affair. The pork belly skin was wonderfully crunchy with a nice balance of fat, skin and meat. The sprinkle of black pudding was a unique touch and was a great way to introduce my friend to the concept of blood as a cooking ingredient. The cheese in the goat's cheese tart was phenomenal. I'm a big fan of goats cheese and this was truly special. The beetroot tart provided a delicate back drop for the cheese. What a brilliant dish.
Yet the best was still to come.

Thirds was the boneless lamb and aged beef. I can't describe the meat as anything other than perfection. We were both speechless about how good it tasted. The meat was so tender, so full of flavour that I could do nothing but sit silently and savour each and every bite. I was memorised.
If you visit the The French Cafe I would implore you to order one of these two dishes!
By this point I had an amazing evening and it hadn't even finished yet.

The Fourth featured a cheese board and a rhubarb crumble. The cheeses were all French imports and were stunning in their intensity and depth of flavour and aroma. French cheese always wins baby! The rhubarb was slightly disappointing. Good rhubarb has a balance of tart and sweet, but this rhubarb had neither. It was serviceable,with only the fantastically tart raspberries saving the dish.

The rest of the meal; the cocktails and complimentary courses were mostly excellent. They included pumpkin soup with mango foam and fresh bread with home made butter. The cocktails were crisp and light. The courses were perfectly portioned so that we were satisfied, yet wanting. The seven course dinner took over three hours to complete, so it's highly recommend you bring good company, which I was lucky enough to have! 

From start to finish the experience at The French Cafe was exceptional. It was everything that should be expect of a high class restaurant. The food was phenomenal, the atmosphered relaxed yet sophisticated, the staff superb.Yes, it's incredibly expensive but its also an exquisitely crafted experience which you need to try at least once.