Every month, my girlfriends and I make an effort to eat out and indulge in some of the amazing food that Auckland’s finest restaurants has to offer. For the month of December, we decided to dine at the famous French Cafe. My first dining experience at this renowned restaurant a few years ago was meet with great disappointment. This is usually the outcome when you go in with high expectations. However, this meal was a huge improvement!
As it was our last meal for 2012, we decided to splurge and ordered the chef’s tasting menu which is made up of a total of nine dishes. We had all previously tried their degustation menu and our consensus was to swap the strong french goats cheese tart for a much lighter kingfish cerviche, which the staff kindly did for us.
Our meal started with an amuse bouche that was not part of the nine course degustation. It was an amazing warm pea and asparagus soup served with a side of fried goat cheese balls. The soup was smooth and flavourful and the small cheese balls were rather mild rather than having the distinctive pungent taste of goats milk.
After quickly devouring the soup, we were then served with the amuse bouche that accompanied our tasting menu. This cold melon and tomato salad served with ricotta cheese and tomato ice was a nice combination of sweet and tangy. The similarities of appearance between the tomato and melon gave this dish a surprise element as I expected some of the balls to be sweet honeydew but was instead a tangy green tomato. The tomato ice was refreshing and the overall dish was very enjoyable.
Our next dish – fruits of the sea – was a combination of fresh seafood ingredients served with native seaweed, cucumber and creme fraiche. This light and delicious dish was made up of a sweet soft scallop, mussel, clam, crayfish, prawn and fish. It also has components such as lemon segments and jelly that added a nice tangy flavour that compiments the seafood and reduces the fishy flavour. The caviar added a small pop of texture and saltiness to this otherwise light dish.
The next dish was the one that the staff kindly exchanged for us. I’m not a big fan of goats cheese nor do I care for beetroot. So instead of the tart, we had the kingfish cerviche which is very similar to the previous dish such as the combination of seafood with creme frachie and caviar. However, instead of adding a citrus component, they used apple instead.
Our next dish – the spanner crab risotto – was a mixture of luscious crab meat risotto, parmesan foam and frozen mustard. This dish incorporates different textures and temperature including pieces of pearl barley that gave the risotto a firm bite. This dish was amazing because I love crab and mustard, the combination of the two flavours worked surprisingly well.
The following dish was the one that I was the most excited about – the south island whitebait sandwich. From left to right, the dish is made up of lemon wasabi mayonnaise, a small whitebait sandwich served with crisps instead of traditional bread and a pickled cucumber and cos lettuce salad. Ever since the spectacular whitebait dish at Logan Brown, I’ve been looking for something similar in Auckland. Although this dish was not as amazing as Logan Brown’s but it was delicious none the less. There was a good amount of juicy whitebait in the sandwich and it’s richness was balanced with the salad. I personally, was not a fan of the mayonnaise, so that was left untouched.
The next dish was my only meat dish for the night as I opted for a fish main. The roasted quail was accompanied with pieces of wild mushrooms, roasted chestnut and a creamy croissant sauce. The meat was tender and juicy, and it worked well with the creamy croissant sauce. The sauce was very interesting and unique. It tasted just like a croissant but in a puree form.
I opted for the fish main rather than the seared duck breast. The fish of the day was snapper and this was seared and served with pieces of tomato, langoustine and basil beignets. I often avoid ordering snapper as I find this type of fish to be dry and tough. I should have stuck to my gut instinct as the fish in this dish was too dry for my liking. All the other components to the dish was good, but the fish itself was disappointing.
After all these dishes, we finally moved on to the sweet stuff! The first dessert – called strawberries and cream – is made up of rosewater poached watermelon, crushed meringue, strawberries and sprigs of mint. This dish used several different textures and flavour components which all worked very well together. I love the combination of strawberries and meringue!
Our last dish for the night was a chocolate overload which incorporated different components in various textures. The creamy milk toffee ice cream with chocolate shavings and crispy malt crisps was combined with pieces of hazelnut and segments of sweet mandarin. This dessert is not as intense and rich as it appears and it was a great way to finish our long tasting meal.
My overall dining experience was an improvement compared to my first time here and apart from the fish, I enjoyed everything including the excellent service provided by the staff. Although we had to move and finish our tasting menu at the bar, we were not bothered by this small inconvenience.
A degustation at French Cafe was a nice way to end 2012 with the girls!
Date: Thursday 20th December, 2012 | Location: 210 Symonds Street, Auckland | Food: French