French flavour goes down a treat

Central Otago Mirror - - WANAKA FEATURES -

A clus­ter of cafes and restau­rants have made them­selves at home in a de­light­ful row on Ar­row­town’s Ramshaw Lane. The out­side seat­ing may be road side but it is away from the bus­tle of Buck­ing­ham St (such as it is) and ad­ja­cent to the Ar­row River. The con­nect­ing cafe seat­ing cre­ates a con­vivial at­mos­phere, which couldn’t be en­joyed on the day we vis­ited due to pour­ing rain.

At­mos­phere:

Still, we were not dis­ap­pointed. In­side Bon­jour we found a lit­tle piece of France. Staff greeted us with cheer­ful ‘‘Bon­jours’’ in charm­ing and au­then­tic French ac­cents, con­firmed by their T-shirts with ‘‘I’m French’’ noted in the back – in case you had any doubts. The walls are busy with pic­tures of the Eif­fel tower, puzzles and jams for sale and at one end sit an Epicerie and Creperie. The red and white che­quered table­cloths al­most con­vince that you re­ally are at a French cafe. They were also busy, with cus­tomers adding to a jolly and up­lift­ing at­mos­phere.

Food:

The break­fast, lunch and din­ner menus are ex­ten­sive and there is a sep­a­rate menu for sweet and savoury crepes. We were also sur­prised to see a big pile of chil­dren’s colour­ing and puzzles and a chil­dren’s menu. Miss 4 de­clared she only wanted fish and chips. How­ever, the fish fin­gers came with rice and the chips with other dishes but staff hap­pily ac­com­mo­dated her de­mands (8.50). Get­ting in the French mood we or­dered half a dozen Es­car­gots a` l’ail (12) – Bur­gundy snails in gar­lic- pars­ley but­ter, served with sliced baguette, which ev­ery­one en­joyed, once we mas­tered the eat­ing equip­ment. Ac­tu­ally, we de­cided the but­ter was so lovely and plen­ti­ful that there re­ally wasn’t a lot of snail to taste – it was more tex­ture. I had the camem­bert and chorizo fon­due (13), which was an oven­melted round of camem­bert served with chopped chorizo and tomato and served with salad. It was de­li­cious. Karen’s Le´gumes far­cis a´ la provenc¸ale (18) was tomato and cour­gette stuffed with a pork, lamb and herb mix, driz­zled with a thyme jus and served with rice. It was beau­ti­fully pre­sented and a flavour­some treat but she felt it was not quite enough. Miss 6 or­dered a camem­bert and strawberry jam creˆpe (13). Made with buck­wheat flour th­ese are gluten free and or­ganic and taste ev­ery bit as good as they sound. Fun­nily enough though, she was more smit­ten with the es­car­got. A mixed salad was added for $5. Ev­ery­thing was go­ing swim­mingly un­til Karl’s half roasted chicken ‘‘French style’’ (16) ar­rived with its salad. It looked good and tasted great – un­til he dived into the mid­dle. The un­der cooked bird was bleed­ing. We pon­dered whether there was some­thing es­pe­cially French about the cook­ing method be­fore alert­ing the wait­ress who whipped it away with the prom­ise of a freshly cooked chicken in five min­utes. Bird num­ber two ar­rived as the rest of us fin­ished our meal and, un­be­liev­ably, was also bright pink and un­cooked next to the bone. While rare ver­sions of many meats are un­der­stand­able – rare chicken is dan­ger­ous and is just not ac­cept­able. Thus the low score for food. A bowl of sliced baguette ar­rived to ac­com­pany all of our meals and more can be or­dered ($3 for five slices).

Ser­vice:

The ser­vice was very good. Staff were tol­er­ant, ac­com­mo­dat­ing, happy to chat through some of the dishes, demon­strated use of the snail tongs and didn’t charge us for the chicken. We were told a new cook­ing de­vice was at fault – I hope this has been re­solved.

Verdict:

We re­ally en­joyed the feel­ing that we were in Paris for a cou­ple of hours on a rainy Sun­day af­ter­noon. While some meals ap­peared to be on the small side we ac­cept that it’s prob­a­bly stan­dard French por­tion sizes which our healthy Kiwi ap­petites could use a lit­tle more of. The un­for­tu­nate un­cooked chicken was the only down­fall to an oth­er­wise de­li­cious lunch.

25 Ramshaw ln, Ar­row­town 9302 Phone: 03 409 8946 Hours: From 8.30am ev­ery day, din­ner from 5.30pm on Thurs­day to Sun­day

French favourite: Es­car­gots Charm­ing: Bon­jour Cafe and Restau­rant . Aw­in­ning lo­ca­tion with friendly and ac­com­mo­dat­ing staff and tasty large meals. Rat­ing: 9/10

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