French flavour goes down a treat
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.
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.
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).
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.
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