A meal here always starts with a basket of moreish bread sticks, creamy hummus and a salty tapenade. If you’re lucky – or eat it fast enough – this will even be replenished swiftly before you order your starters.
The menu changes daily, but you’ll find light tapas items to kick things off, or bigger appetisers like risotto and pink prawns. Soups might include the likes of spicy chickpea-and-chorizo, which offers a pleasant, lingering heat. For mains, pulled lamb gnocchi is cloud-like and comes with a rich sauce of tomatoes, peas and artichokes. Vegetarians are also always catered for with dishes like generously filled butternut lasagna. If you’re here on a date, order the paella to share. The crème brûlée for dessert never disappoints.
A board labelled ‘wine friends’ will keep enthusiasts happy with some great local bottles and new wine gems. Kudos for a well-assembled and interesting selection of well-known and off-the-radar wines at very reasonable mark-ups. And an extra pat on the back for the range of quality wines offered by the glass. What a pity that my two first choices were out of stock! However, the service is friendly and knowledgeable on the extensive wine list.
The welcome was rather abrupt, with a hand waving us to sit anywhere in a largely empty room, despite the fact that we had booked well in advance. But the broad smile from the staff and willingness to please more than made up for that.
The décor is Bistro 101, with brown paper tablecloths and smallish tables close to each other. This is one of those restaurants that needs people to create the atmosphere.
The sidewalk tables are great for people-watching in summer; and the standing gas heaters are a welcome addition in the winter.
Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.
An appealing mix of formal and cosy, this bistro offers a brief menu with enough options to suit most palates. The dishes range from Asian to French and Italian in origin, but strong flavours abound throughout.
After a complimentary snack of pitas with homemade humus and tapenade, we order some starters. The tender fried calamari – three strips, to be exact – on a bed of red-curry sweet potato is very tasty, but not if you’re looking for a big portion of scampi. Crispy pork spring rolls deliver what’s expected, and the steaming basil-and-tomato soup is a warming choice on a chilly night. Beetroot carpaccio with pecorino and classic caprese are the vegetarian options.
An unexpected raspberry sorbet palate cleanser makes us smile as we sip and await our next course. On the set menu of main courses, the steak au poivre is beautifully done, with a deliciously pungent crust of pepper, served on crushed potatoes with a creamy brandy sauce. The stuffed chicken breast is a good choice for the less adventurous diner, offering an easy-to-like combination of flavours with herbed cous cous and a great sundried tomato velouté. Going out on a limb to try the ostrich neck tortellini is rewarded with huge flavours – if not proportions. The meat inside the smallish portion of pasta is pretty scant, but the creamy roasted garlic sauce is truly delicious, delivering bucketloads of flavour, along with the sweet pea purée and delicate wilted greens.
The chalkboard dessert menu offers the usual suspects and crêpes with a few fillings. My crème brûlée has an exemplary crackable crust of sugar and beautiful texture, dotted pleasingly with vanilla. Suitably moist and chocolatey, the brownie will please fans of the cocoa bean, and the baked cheesecake is simple perfection.
The deal of three courses on the set menu for R180 is good value for money, but if you’re going to deviate, you can go for more elaborate mains like seafood paella (R320 for two), confit duck leg or cumin-crusted kudu. The tapas bites – patatas bravas, prawns, sticky pork ribs, grilled sardines – are popular with groups and to accompany after-work drinks.
The wine menu is longer than the food menu, which is a good sign for oenophiles. There are loads of interesting local options per varietal, with appealing items like the Creation Viognier at an affordable R40 per glass. If you’re in a festive mood, why not order a jug of sangria?
Despite our reservation and arrival to a nearly empty restaurant in the early evening, we are given a table outside alongside the thoroughfare and near the gap in the awning to the street. All my misgivings are swept aside, however, once we settle down and I realise how comfortable it is, with the area evenly heated by standing gas heaters, and decorated with charming fairy lights. A table here on the sidewalk would be first prize in midsummer. The brown paper tablecloth keeps the neighbourhood bistro theme. The interior of La Boheme is cosy and slightly smarter, with wooden chairs and soft lighting for a linger-longer kind of ambience.
Friendly and efficient. There are loads of waiters around, who make us feel very taken care of. They arrive in a well-groomed group to swoop down and deliver our meals all in one go and replace cutlery when necessary.
My reservation is confirmed via telephone on the day – a nice touch.
Eat Out reviewers dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Click here to read our editorial policy.