Celebrating the food of France at Les Deux Salons

Today we’re just a stone’s throw from Trafalgar Square in a beautiful bistro. Les Deux Salons is designed in classic French style and exudes a welcoming glow.

It seems appropriate that I’m writing about French cuisine in London a few days after the tragic events in Paris, another great European capital. Especially as some of the victims were simply out having a drink on a Friday night after a busy working week, something I obviously do frequently. So my thoughts are with Paris and its citizens and I’m hoping the fear goes away and we can stop killing each other needlessly. Life is precious and short…let’s all try to make the most of every moment. And this is a good place to start.

Les Deux Salons is quintessentially French, it kind of feels like you’re in Paris as you walk in the door. The menu is classically bistro and has plenty of delights on offer, including this amazing pissaladiere. It’s a rectangular tart of the lightest buttery pastry topped with a fabulous combination of caramelised onions, black olives and salty anchovies. The kind of dish that simply melts in your mouth and delights your taste buds with the beautifully contrasting flavours. This is one tart I have to try making myself.

pissaladiere

Beautifully light pastry and a tasty tangy topping

I’m always a fan of a bit of calf’s liver and served here with smoked bacon in a rich, velvety sauce and topped with deep fried sage leaves it was wonderfully rich and satisfying.

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Succulent calf’s liver, smoky bacon and crispy sage

Perfectly matched with a plate of sweet, buttery carrots.

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Sweet, buttery carrots

And a portion of piping hot fries, soft inside and beautifully crunchy on the outside. Gotta love perfectly cooked chips.

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Perfectly crunchy golden fries

And this is Parisian gnocchi served with a wild mushroom sauce. Our waiter told us Parisian gnocchi is different from Italian gnocchi in that it is made with dough rather than potatoes – much like Chinese-style dumplings. A beautifully autumnal dish packed with rich, earthy flavours.

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Gnocchi in a creamy mushroom sauce

Here’s the outside of Les Deux Salons, now doesn’t that look tempting?

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One glance at the exterior and I want to go in

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A taste of Paris in London

Les Deux Salons is at 40-42 William IV Street, Covent Garden

Loved the London landmarks that were lit up in solidarity with Paris after that dreadful Friday 13th.

To Paris with love from London.

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Tower Bridge’s beautiful tribute to show support for Paris

Going French at Chez Lindsay in Richmond

So today we’re venturing to the outer reaches of London to beautiful Richmond. Well it’s really in Surrey but let’s say outer London – the underground does go there after all.

Home to one of the best views in town from the top of Richmond Hill which many artists have painted, a fabulous green with a pub on it called The Cricketers, and of course the majestic Thames, Richmond has a lot going for it. Including a delightful bistro called Chez Lindsay which specialises in authentic cooking from Brittany.

On a particularly damp and drizzly weekday night, we were greeted with a warm welcome and a mouth-watering menu, one of those ones it’s really hard to choose from. A wide range of starters, pancakes (or galettes, a Breton speciality) and mains served up by charming French waiters – why does English spoken with a French accent sound so good? Anyway, on to the food.

Boudin Noir – black putting served with apple compote may not look the most appealing of starters but it was fabulous. The sausage was beautifully aromatic and melt-in-the-mouth and the apples couldn’t have been more appley.

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Simple flavours that go together beautifully

I really battled to decide and in the end went for the Salad d’Ecrevisses. A crayfish and parmesan salad with croutons, apple, new potatoes and a light creamy garlic dressing. Beautifully presented in a neat stack, it was packed with flavour and textures. Truly delightful.

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Fresh and crunchy, a wonderful crayfish dish

And then there’s the galletes which can be starter or main course. These  nutty buckwheat pancakes are cooked to order on a flat griddle with a wide range of savoury fillings. Yummy.

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Simply tasty – pancake filled with cheese and ham

Brittany is know for its fish dishes, so the Parmentier de Poissons seemed a logical choice. The flavoursome fish, cider and leek pie was served with a rocket and ruby chard salad.

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Fish pie topped with crunchy mashed potato

And then the wonderfully indulgent calves liver. Foie de Veau was served with petits pois a la Francais (peas with cream, lettuce and bacon) and mashed potato. Classic French fare perfectly done.

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Pink calves liver nestles on a bed of peas and mash

A fishy pancake for mains – the smoked salmon galette came with lemon and chive cream. A substantial portion of salmon I’m pleased to say (do love smoked salmon).

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The ideal dish for smoked salmon loveres

The roast rump of saltmarsh lamb was served with redcurrant and wine sauce, samphire, spinach and potatoes. A substantial, rich and warming dish, perfect for a dank autumn night.

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Tender and tasty croupe d’agneau

To say we were all replete at this stage would be understating it. But something made us order some cheese to share…and it was worth it. A selection of four French cheeses (naturally), the ideal way to finish off a meal.

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Can’t resist the cheese!

Chez Lindsay serves a great array of delicious French dishes and is a welcome sanctuary in Richmond which has more than its fair share of restaurant changes on its high street. It’s relaxed and friendly and also really good value for  money. What more could you ask for?

Chez Lindsay is at 11 Hill Rise, Richmond Hill.

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A heavenly piece of France at PAUL in Covent Garden

Tonight I’m back in Covent Garden trying out a brand new bistro. I seem to keep discovering romantic stories of family businesses that have been going forever. PAUL is another one of them.

The company was started in 1889 when Charlemagne Mayot and his wife opened a small bakery in Croix near Lille. It was his granddaughter Suzanne and her husband who carried on the business by taking over a famous bakery-patisserie in Lille belonging to the Paul family. They decided to keep the name. PAUL patisseries are now in 29 countries around the world and 125 years later, what has now become something of an empire, is still family owned and run.

I’ve had many PAUL encounters in London. It’s hard to walk past one with their tempting array of cakes twinkling at you from the display. And their coffee’s really good, too. Tonight’s PAUL, though, is one with a difference. Behind the irresistible confectionary is their first foray into the world of restaurants – a classic bistro. With beautifully Parisian decor and a menu based on classic, simple French cuisine, there’s no doubting its French-ness. And the food is wonderful…it’s easy doing simple food, but it’s not always easy doing it to perfection. They’ve certainly achieved that here.

The conundrum of picking a starter was neatly averted by going for a platter! A rather carniverous one at that. This selection of saucisson, jambon cru, coppa, rosette, terrine and smoked duck breast came scattered with zesty onions and cornichons with a basket of assorted bread on the side. They take their bread very seriously here, it’s all made on-site with flour that’s milled from wheat grown exclusively for them by French farmers. No wonder it tastes so good. This meaty combo was amazing. I particularly like the saucisson and smoked duck and could have eaten a whole tin of the pate de Campagne. It was ridiculously good!

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Heaven is…a board of charcuterie with onions and cornichons

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Classic pate de Campagne: rustic and bursting with flavour

The petit Camembert came with toasted Campagne bread. A starter to share and get stuck into…dipping the toast into the creamy ooziness of the camembert is wonderful, if potentially messy!

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Delectable baked Camembert with rosemary and honey

The main course options (not surprisingly) shout France! Things like blanquette de veau, Toulouse sausages, Andouilette, Coq Au Vin and steak frites. After a discussion about whether it was boring to order roast chicken in a restaurant (yes is the answer) I decided to try their roasted free range corn fed half chicken, marinated in tarragon, lemon and garlic. Beautifully lemony with a hint of scented tarragon, this strikingly yellow (from the corn) chicken was mouthwateringly succulent and could certainly be entered into a competition for the best roast chicken ever! And it was huge…well, they did say half a chicken so I don’t know why I was surprised at the size…seriously, this is a main for two to share, especially when you consider all the other delicious dishes you are going to be unable to resist!

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The best roast chicken ever? It’s certainly up there

Like the dauphinois potatoes…yummy, yummy, yummy. Love the little pan, too.

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Creamy dauphinoise potatoes to ooh over

Another classic is the duck confit, a slow- cooked duck leg served on buttery mash. Crispy, soft and flavourful, this has got to be one of the best ways to eat duck.

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Confit de canard aux olives

There’s a great selection of wines, as you’d expect from any class French establishment.

The breakfast and snack menus look extremely tempting, too. Who can resist a croque monsieur, or madame for that matter.

And then there’s the desserts. A range of tarts to start with – the lemon (citron) is truly scrumptions (I’m running out of adjectives!) or you can sample millefeuille, eclairs, macarons, brioche-based delicacies and sorbets and ice creams.

© Giles Christopher - Media Wisdom Photography Ltd

Cakes, tarts, slices, macarons…a fabulous array of sweet delights

 

© Giles Christopher - Media Wisdom Photography Ltd

The elegant and welcoming interior

PAUL had only been open about a month when I visited. The strangest thing about it (in a good way) is that it feels like it’s been around forever and you are eating classic family recipes that have been passed down through the generations.

The space is stylish and comfortable, the staff serve with a twinkle in their eyes and it’s also extremely good value. For example, my jumbo helping of chicken costs £12.50.

A great new addition to the Covent Garden restaurant scene, as well as to the family business. Welcome La Restaurant de PAUL.

Le Restaurant de PAUL is at 29 Bedford Street, Covent Garden

Square Meal

South Africa meets France at Cafe Dijon

The quest continues to bring you the best that Cape Town has to offer. Tonight we went up the road to Green Point. Cafe Dijon opened 15 months ago and is run by South African Francophiles Sarah and Johan Du Plessis (AKA Dup).

A fabulously designed French-bistro style interior leads out onto a magical terrace with twinkling lights hanging from the trees and a braai fire burning. Totally charming.

The menu offers a range of classic French dishes like cassoulet, homemade Toulouse sausages, duck a l’orange, steak tartare and salad Lyonnaise, amazing Angus beef steaks and  inventive dishes with a South African touch.

On Dup’s recommendation we started with the home smoked snoek trio, It’s a beautiful plate with a portion of bobotie, a spring roll and a croquette served on sweet potato puree – yes, all made using that humble ingredient, snoek. South Africans can be quite snobbish about it (it’s a fairly cheap fish for those of you who don’t know) and would be very hesitant to order it. Well, that would be such a mistake here. The bobotie looks like bobotie (which is usually made with lamb mince) – and is silken, flavoursome and  irresistible! Dup told us what the secret ingredient is, but well, its a secret. The spring roll comes with perfect pastry and is packed with shredded, tasty snoek and the croquette is velvety and moreish. We spent ten minutes discussing which one was the best…the jury is still out! What a way to start.

The starter of the year so far, snoek heaven

The starter of the year so far, snoek heaven

South Africans are a real nation of carnivores – my brother tries to convince everyone that chicken is a vegetable! But they are fussy, so top-quality steaks are always important and they are carefully and personally sourced for Cafe Dijon. This Angus beef ribeye was outstanding, perfectly cooked and served with crispy frites and Bearnaise sauce (my favourite). Oh, and lovely onion rings, too.

The tastiest of ribeye with amazing Bearnaise sauce

The tastiest of ribeye with amazing Bearnaise sauce

Portions are pretty hearty, especially this cassoulet. Made with slow-braised pork hock and cannellini bean casserole with Toulouse sausage and duck confit, thyme and garlic, it is more of a wintery dish as our waitress Evie pointed out. We love cassoulet we couldn’t resist ordering it. Totally lovely, the pork hock was so tasty and the Toulouse sausage (which they make themselves) tasted authentic and meaty.

Meaty, rich and melt-in-the-mouth

Meaty, rich and melt-in-the-mouth

Okay, so now we were full. Then I started reading the dessert menu aloud and before we knew what had happened we’d ordered a pavlova. “I’d come here just for this,” murmured my husband as he tucked into this substantial, sweet and delicate plate piled high with a wonderful selection of the freshest fruit.

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The dessert of desserts: pavlova with Creme Chantilly and seasonal fruit

Dup and his staff (particularly Juno and Evie) are engaging, charming and so passionate about the restaurant and the food you can’t help but get excited. And the dishes deliver on their promises. Here I am getting prepared to order…do I look happy?

Happiness is...a courtyard and a menu

Happiness is…a courtyard and a menu

The braai fire is always lit, and tonight Dup took the opportunity to braai a cornucopia of local meat (lamb and pork from the Karoo) for a party of Americans. How’s that for personal service?

Dup the braaimaster does his stuff while an excited customer watches on

Dup the braai master is watched over

The wine list is fabulous, with some really special ones to try if you want to treat yourself. And although sitting outside was lovely, the interior is also very enticing. Oh well, we’ll just have to go back and commandeer an inside table.

Cafe Dijon is at 15 Napier Street, Green Point

Oh, and they have a lovely, inspiring blog with beautiful pics and recipes for you to try. For more info check out their  website at www.cafedijon.co.za

 

Time to go back to Bistrot Bizerka

The original Bistrot Bizerka opened in 2007 in a somewhat isolated spot on the Foreshore. Run by chef Laurent (who grew up and trained in France) and his wife Cyrillia, it recently moved to a new home in historic Heritage Square, so we simply had to visit. We went to the original eaterie several times and always loved the food, though the setting and building weren’t the best, to be honest.

The new setting is lovely. There’s a fifty-seater restaurant and an atmospheric little courtyard to enjoy balmy alfresco eating. And it’s not easy to get a table, I tried several times and ended up booking for a date nearly two weeks ahead and then gathering diners together (which didn’t prove too difficult)!

The menu is a mix of classic French dishes and innovative new plates. There are six classics permanently on the menu and the rest of your (fairly substantial) choices are on the daily chalkboard menu which changes regularly depending on what’s fresh and seasonal. It’s a relaxed place to have dinner with friendly waiting staff who eagerly answer any questions, they all seem passionate about the food.

Our waitress started to take us through the chalkboard menu, and the first starter simply had my name written all over it! Organic tomato salad, marinated bocconcino, gazpacho sorbet and ginger dressing. Lots of different types of tomatoes, both raw and roasted served with beautiful cheese, a sublime sorbet and the most amazing zesty dressing. Tomato heaven – I could eat it every day. Have I mentioned my obsession with tomatoes recently?

The best tomato starter ever?

The best tomato starter ever?

Here’s what everyone else tucked in to.

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Twice cooked quail with pea a la francais

The duo of tuna was a spicy tartare served alongside some luscious sashimi.

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Duo of tuna with soft quails egg, parmesan and tapenade

Bizerka prides itself in serving more unusual cuts of meat like this veal tongue.

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Poached veal tongue and fresh porcini fricassee, tarragon sauce

One of the permanent starters is this classic French combo of pate and rillettes.

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Duo of pates and rillettes, cornichons and pickled pear

A fabulous duck dish to savour. I just have to say, my friend Jeanine who ordered this had never eaten duck until she tried some of mine at a restaurant last year! Now she orders it all the time…

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Duo of duck with sweet potato/chestnut puree, spinach, confit fig, port/pepper sauce

More kingklip for me. This fish is just the best it’s ever been at the moment, so I have to keep ordering it.

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Pan fried kingklip and prawn/brussels sprout galette, broccollini, fennel, tomato salas, spice veloute

Seriously heart warming food, using another unusual cut of meat, beef cheeks.

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Braised beef cheek curry with warm cumin and coriander cous cous, bok choi and rhubarb chutney

The braised shoulder of veal is soft, melt-in-the-mouth food. A properly indulgent dish.

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Braised veal shoulder with seasonal vegetables, prune chutney and rosemary jus

From the classic menu, fabulous fillet.

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Grilled beef fillet, dauphin jardiniere, roast black mushroom

Dessert time. Valrhona chocolate melting dessert, creme brulee and raspberry sorbet. My friend Candice was rendered speechless when she tasted this!

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Dessert that can’t be put into words?

How I’m loving the cheeseboards! Large portions, plenty of variety and share with the table…gives me the excuse I need to order one!

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A great range of cheese with chutney, fruit and nuts

Wow! It was a great night and definitely a restaurant on the “return to soon” list. Seriously I could have ordered anything on the menu…and we’re loving the new venue, too.

Bistrot Bizerca is at 98 Shortmarket Street, Heritage Square.

Stunning lunch in the sunshine at Bistro Sixteen82

Another stunning Sunday in Cape Town and it’s time to catch up with our friends Jules and Bruno – coincidentally the Jules of my previous post. So we headed for Bistro Sixteen82, set in the beautiful Steenberg vineyards and one of my favourites.

Named after the year in which Steenberg was established, it’s a stylishly modern restaurant set in an elegant garden with water features. Chef Brad Ball conjures up his interpretation of modern bistro food. It’s just fabulous!

To start, three of us were set on the scallops. Atlantic scallops with chorizo, sweetcorn puree and vanilla jus. The combo of scallops and chorizo is just perfect and served like this with the bright yellow puree, the dish was a work of art. And it tasted just as good as it looked.

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A beautiful plate of food got us all excited right away

Jules is a vegetarian so asked if she could have hers minus the chorizo. Not a problem, and she got an extra scallop instead – we were all slightly envious.

The vegetarian version of the scallop dish

The vegetarian version of the scallop dish

The amazing leek gratin was made with Klein River gruyere, hazelnuts smoked potato puree and nasturtiums to decorate. Lovely!

Delicious and beautifully creative leek gratin

Delicious and beautifully creative leek gratin

Jules’ fish dish won the prize for the prettiest dish of the day on our table (in a very close-fought competition). Pan-fried line fish (today it was gurnard), pea pancake, smoked salmon trout, creme fraiche and tomato vinaigrette. What colours, flavours and textures!

Gurnard with plenty of goodies

Gurnard with plenty of goodies

Terry couldn’t resist ordering one of the specials. Seawater crayfish served with bernaise sauce, chips and a shrimp salad, was served on a long wooden platter and elicited gasps of excitement when it arrived at the table. Clever use of the cucumber to hold the salad together.

One of the day's specials, amazing freshwater crayfish

One of the day’s specials, amazing freshwater crayfish

I just love the beef tataki, which you can have as a starter or main. I really must break away and try something else next time, but it is just the perfect summer lunch dish. Chilled seared slices of Chalmar fillet with ginger, chilli, lime and sesame. I ordered a green salad to go with it, which was delicate and tasty with zesty caper berries and a great dressing.

Beef tataki is fresh and tasty with melt in the mouth beef

Beef tataki is fresh and tasty with melt in the mouth beef

An amazing green salad with caper berries and gherkins

An amazing green salad with caper berries and gherkins

Although we were all full we couldn’t resist sharing a cheeseboard between us. A lovely selection of local cheeses with walnut and apricot rye crackers.

Cheese platter

Our delicious cheese platter

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Amazing food is matched by amazing views

You can also buy wine from the vineyard here to take home. The wine is very good, so I’d recommend a tasting which will no doubt lead to a purchase before you head home.

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The chill-out area near the wine tasting counter

I’ve been dreaming of my next visit to Sixteen82 for ages, through the incessant rain of the British summer. I follow them on twitter and often see the tempting pictures of their latest special which I can’t sample because I’m in London…But now, at last, I’ve been back and been reminded of how much I love it. Oh and everyone’s been raving about their tapas menu, so I’m simply going to have to go for early evening tapas soon…can’t wait!