Restaurant Review: More French

Newsroom 12/04/2010 | 13:16

Blondie and I were looking over the menu and wine list in the new Bonne Bouche.

All of a sudden she let out a shriek so loud that I thought one of her friends had sneaked under the table and given her a surprise bikini waxing.

But I need not have worried as she was squeaking with excitement, for she works in Unirii and has spent years bemoaning the lack of a serious restaurant in Lipscani and neighboring Unirii. And here it was in tiny Franceza St which already houses the rather good Turkish Divan chophouse.

The interior of the restaurant is an absolute delight and is a reflection of Gallic eccentricity. Although it is only three weeks old, it already feels ‘lived in’. It is cozy and

warm without the intrusion of brain numbing music competing with television screens showing soccer playing louts hawking and spitting on the field. Thank God that

both of these two aberrations were absent.

And thank God too for their

humorous toilet which is a mini library with one wall lined with books to read, so now the boys can do something useful with the other hand.

Before we stuffed our faces into the food, Blondie made an observation which only a female eye would observe, namely the clientele were civilized, relaxed and well dressed casually in cashmere and chinos. It was a good point as the rest of Lipscani is an area devoid of fashionistas. Everywhere other than here the girls look like ragamuffins, the men are scruffs and both sexes wear nothing other than last year’s unwashed denims!

So having set the scene, let us now peruse the menu. I was not excited by it. The best I can say is that it is ‘safe’ for the House. There

is nothing which reflects France’s different gastronomic regions.

Nor is there anything remotely seasonal in it. And to my disappointment, there were none of the great French sauces, not even the simplest sauce made from cream, butter, wine or Cognac and bullion. To put it simply every ingredient on the menu was purchased here in Bucharest.

But the wine was certainly not from Bucharest. It was an extensive list of good quality European wines and carefully thought out. Bravo House!

So away to the menu where they had ordinary dishes like ‘salmon en croute’ a 1960s dish which went out of fashion in Europe 20 years ago. Likewise they had ‘moules marineres’ which is so ordinary that it is served as pub food throughout Europe. Also there was ‘foie gras terrine’ which although it was correctly accompanied by an onion marmalade, foie gras is available throughout the city so there was nothing special about that. I was looking for something unique and quintessentially French, and I could not find it.

They offered salads with the standard tourist staple of ‘nicoise’ together with a seafood salad which was nothing more than lettuce with a selection of frozen seafood straight from a Romanian supermarket bag. That made me angry!

So we dived into a duck breast with a red fruit sauce. The duck was correctly cooked pink and the fruit pulp was fine, but hold on. Every reasonable restaurant in town offers you the same. Where is France in this?

The nearest thing I would agree as being authentic modern French bistro cuisine was their lamb rack in a thyme crust, served with couscous and raisins. Yes House, you pulled it off well with this dish alone. But as soon as I saw sad, predictable, Romanian ‘perch’ on the menu I was reminded I am in the middle of Romania, and not in the middle of France.

But all the food was well prepared. Their ‘pommes frites’ were superb and the House saved itself with its dessert dish of a choco fondant with vanilla ice cream. This was a perfect souffle from heaven for chocoholics.

It breaks my heart to see a restaurant do so many good things such as their perfect hot bread with superb herb butter, their warm design, their great wine list, their good value prices, their happy buzzy ambiance, only to be let down with a Romanian-pseudo European menu written in French.

There are only four French bistros in the entire country, and I can confidently predict that Bonne Bouche has a great future ahead of it. But it will never be the top bistro until they change the menu. It is well cooked Romanian local produce, but the menu lets it down .It is just not French. But I love the place nonetheless.


Michael Barclay


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