Damn. Can’t find that tongue in cheek article claiming the only three French speakers in the poncy ‘village’ of Franschhoek are black Africans from the Congo. It had me chuckling to myself about the nouveau French culture among the pale socialites and millionaire hobby wine makers in this town. Franschhoek may have been founded by an earlier breed of refugees, the French Huguenots, over 300 years ago but the language was lost in a generation as they did what many refugees in a pickle do: assimilate. Into Dutch colonial settler culture in this case. They left the wine. That’s all. Not a soufflé nor even a béarnaise sauce.
In truth when the Huguenots came the French weren’t eating well. Haute Cuisine only arose along with the French Revolution in 1789. If only we could have our own uprising against the local landed gentry, who with no sense of irony celebrate Bastille Day.
While all the a la this and Provence that may be tiresome (all the more galling in a lovely valley), our own recent French ‘renaissance’ has had one positive spin-off: the food. In fact it’s not quite correct that there are no blanc French speakers in the valley, for Mon Plaisir is run by a couple of friendly French people.
The bistro is situated under the oaks on the Chamonix wine estate (an authentic 17th century Huguenot farm in this case). A fine French chalk board menu, including duck, sweetbreads and foie gras leaves me salivating. It’s a meal of firsts as I venture where my tongue has never traveled before.
To kick off its frogs’ legs with simple garlic butter sauce. I can’t say they are swimming in sauce but you know what I mean. Pretty legs too. Squeamish apprehension is misplaced, with not a hint of amphibious slime in evidence. Only lovely delicate white flesh, though I do have to add more than a pinch of salt.
Then Tournedos Rossini with my first of slice of real truffle. I believe the truffle is preserved but then at R190 for this main you can’t really expect something fresh off the plane. I am underwhelmed by the black fungus. It’s a bit earthy. But the fillet underneath is excellent and the foie gras good but not as good as at La Colombe. Potatoes in the dauphinoise are a bit undercooked.
Snails are fine. Sweetbreads are even better than that, though a liquorice flavour, possibly from anise, is a little too prominent for me. A fellow luncher, who has eaten more meals in France than me, says the celeriac is a little too bitter.
This is washed down with an enjoyable bottle of Chamonix Sauvignon Blanc. On the day it is great value for money for noble food that takes time to prepare. Good for a slow lunch.
I will have to return for the rotisserie duck, with potatoes roasted in its fat (the most indulgent way to eat spuds). Phone at least four days ahead for this as it can’t be cooked on the hoof.
December 6, 2009
Tags: anise, Bastille Day, bearnaise, Cape restaurant reviews, Cape Town restaurant reviews, Cape Winelands, celeriac, Chamonix, Chamonix Sauvignon Blanc, Congo, dauphinoise, duck, Dutch, foie gras, Franschhoek, Franschhoek restaurants, French Huguenots, French Revolution, frogs legs, Haute Cuisine, La Colombe, liquorice, Mon Plaisir, Mon Plaisir restaurant, oaks, refugees, rotisserie duck, slow lunch, snails, socialites, souffle, sweetbreads, Tournedos Rossini, truffle, wine makers