Venues

A la Bouffe

A la Bouffe
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Cost
R150 avg main meal
Ambience
Comfy & casual, Contemporary cool, Family friendly
Food
Bistro fare, French
Payment
Mastercard, Visa

Critic's review

Marie-Lais Emond

Food
When chef Romuald Denesle married and settled in South Africa two years back, his Michelin stars and awards still shiny, he sought to be more of a bistro chef, creating comfort foods often from his original home of Normandy, rather than the competitive food creations of before. He has fallen in love with food simplicity and the eating and creation of dishes that give most essential pleasure.

The kind of bistro food Romy, as he likes to be called, produces requires an innate understanding of flavours and processes but seems almost homely on a menu, though very attractive on a plate. His fish and lamb dishes are deliciously typical. His well-praised braised lamb takes a couple of days to prepare, involving boning the shoulder and flank cuts and compressing the meat before pan frying with spinach and serving with parsnip and sweet potato. He has come to like using the very best South African ingredients, loving to source these himself, and utilising them in his French culinary manner. Hake and kingklip feature very often on the menu and at present there is a starter dish of home-smoked hake, with cucumber, olives, avo and a boiled egg salad, very edible. There’s also a kingklip with a lovely lemon sauce, asparagus and crushed potato, simple but oh-so tasty. A vegetarian duck egg dish is rather appealing, poached and served with a casseroled red pepper, courgette and aubergine tian, the top browned, along with a crispy potato galette.

Look out for specials, most often something he has found at a market and been inspired by.
As you are seated, a selection of little snacks and fresh-baked bread arrives. People have been known to eat all that bread greedily before dinner, a mistake because this is not teensy nouvelle-style food. Needless to say for a chef with his background, everything is created from scratch. From Thursdays to Sundays lunches are served - during the week they are warm salads in winter, cool ones in summer or plates of meats and lovely cheeses, even chunky, French versions of sandwiches. Then, over weekends, there are wonderful breakfasts, including that delicious breakfast comfort, homemade pain au chocolat with good coffee or Romy’s own excellent, buttery but not necessarily cheesy French omelette. Weekend lunches often feature roasts. He says he cannot avoid serving frogs legs and escargot (snails) here, with so many French diners arriving from far and wide. For dessert, he is known for combining fruit and dairy, for instance a yoghurt bavarois with strawberry jelly and jam or a delicious orange crème brulee.

Drinks
Romy Denesle is enamoured of South African wines and on the menus are South African but also sometimes a French wine suggestions alongside. For instance, with the lamb dish could go Laborie’s Cabernet or the French-South African Domain Grier’s Odyssea. With the duck egg vegetarian dish is recommended a Cape Rock Rose or Lomond SSV, both South African. Even the desserts have suggestions: the South African Graham Beck MCC or a Cointreau with that creme brulee. After the list of 15 or so local and maybe ten French wines follow beers spirits, softs, coffees, teas and one of the nicest hot chocolates.

Service
The restaurant is small and the chef does not often appear in the front. The one or two service staff members are very pleasant and reasonably knowledgeable about the foods and drinks but often stretched when the restaurant fills up. Be prepared for some waits.

Ambience
The idea is cottagey-suburban, rustic wood tables with runners and napkins. The pictures are more Paris than Normandy but colourful. It is more warm and friendly than the continental Gallic style. This is a place for good conversations. Families like to converge over weekends and in the evenings and there are often some French visitors.

And…
Almost every two weeks or so A la Bouffe hosts special wine-pairing dinners, making it worthwhile to be on the mailing list. For these, the homely style of the menu is often ramped up a little.

(September 2016)

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  • Ambience
  • Service
  • Food
  • Marie-Lais Emond

    Food
    Michelin-starred chef Romuald Denesle has married and settled in South Africa to serve the comfort dishes he loves. His bistro cuisine includes stews and pies, and homely cuts of meat. It’s very French and with a touch of Normandy in the style, referencing his origin. Romuald really loves to go shopping and searching for special growers, suppliers and markets for his produce – he insists on doing this personally and has even found a snails supplier – in Benoni!

    A dark and rich stew of rabbit and prunes comes with a white bean purée and beautiful, sweet broccoli. One expects it to be a little countrified, but it is beautifully presented. The braised lamb takes a day to prepare and is served with spinach, as well as parsnip and sweet potato. The very French country entrée of smoked hake, poached with leek and pearl barley and served with a sour, rough mustard, is undeniably delicious.

    Desserts are very fine but few, and include two extremely scrumptious tarts, the one a sublime, buttery Normandy-style apple tart with vanilla créme fraîche, and the other the French (and less sweet, with real lemon) version of lemon meringue pie. It’s a must while still on the menu. Breakfasts feature some true comforts like pain au chocolat and frothy coffee and another wonder, a real plain perfect, eggy omelette. For lunches, patrons like to order cold meat platters or French cheese platters, but they offer French sandwiches too, as well as deliciously chunky salads.

    Vegetarians have nothing to complain about. A layered tart of baked beetroot and red onion, served with a savoury ‘ice cream’ of broad bean and mint créme fraîche, will blow you away. Every croissant, loaf or cake is baked right here first thing. It smells magnificent.

    Drinks
    The menu offers 15 local and 15 French wines, and contains excellent wine suggestions. Local producers included here are Iona, Sutherland, Graham Beck and Villiera, among others. There’s also a handful of local and imported boutique beers, as well as aperitifs, digestifs and whiskies.

    Service
    The small restaurant is managed by two service staff members who know the menu well. Bookings and billing negotiations is a pleasant experience.

    Ambience
    Bare wood farm-style tables have runners and napkins instead of cloths in a no-frills atmosphere of honest cuisine. The outside area features herb planters – it all adds up to a warm and friendly atmosphere, Gallic style.

    And…
    Keep an eye out for breakfast specials on certain days.

    (August 2015)

User reviews

  • Where else in Joburg can you eat out for less than R300 a head including a bottle of wine, experience a delectable 3 course prix fixe menu, great service and delightful conversation. A la Bouffe is an absolute win and I feel blessed that they are situated in my Neighbourhood!
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  • After reading this was a Michelin starred chef we went to A La Bouffe with great expectations. For mains I had Toulouse sausage on lentils, really not a combination that spoke to my taste buds, and the Toulouse sausage uncannily resembled "boerewors" made with pork, so imagine "boerewors" on a bed of semi-hard lentils, thats it, very much a one-dimensional flavour. My husband had sirloin, and our own home cooked sirloin marinated in balsamic tastes much better! Then came the desert of Créme brûleè. When I sent my spoon down for that wonderful crack of the brûleè and dipping into the soft cool crème below I was completely let down. My spoon got stuck in a sticky toffee, it could not crack through, there was no crack, I pulled the spoon up and the sticky toffee came along. The crème underneath was hot instead of cool. What a huge disappointment! Makes me wonder if there are truly Michelin stars involved here or is the King walking naked again? This restaurant is not seeing us again! Must add though the starter of Chicken liver parfait was very good, therefore I give it 2 stars instead of just 1.
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  • This is a travesty of a French Restaurant. No welcoming or knowledgeable management in attendance throughout the evening. Items sent back to the kitchen (mashed potato tasting rancid and too-previously prepared and stored, an almost raw half carrot - cold - passed off as an accompanying vegetable) not returned in an edible state, shrivelled and overcooked mussels and floury onion soup. Don't be fooled by the descriptions in French. It's mediocre at best. Horrible at worst.
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  • The country-style look and feel of this cozy bistro is utterly charming. I guess most people are still intimidated by a 'French' restaurant, but this relaxed and lovely restaurant and friendly staff makes you feel at home immediately. The menu features traditional French favourites like Croque Monsieur, Cuisse de grenouilles à l’ail (frog legs), etc. We tried the frog legs (never had it before) as a starter to share and it was really delicious. The wine list is fabulous and the cheese and charcuterie platters (we ordered it to share) was really very tasty. We will definetely be back for a 'home cooked' meal!
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  • I finally made it to A la Bouffe and this family run restaurant with lots of french flair did not disappoint! 'Fantastic French' cuisine is truly a title that chef Romuald Denesle lives up to and this multi-award winning French Chef uses his imagination and creativity to its fullest potential. A bit about the chef for those of you who are interested - Romuald Denesle has worked under Marc Chalopin at Charlot Roi des Coquillages and at Louis Grondard’s two-star Michelin Restaurant, Dormant before moving to London to do amazing things there, and then finally settling in sunny South Africa. Onto the feast prepared for me.. To start, I selected the pate. Pâté de foie: liver parfait paired with Beaujolais-Vilages and it arrived with the most delicious freshly baked bread that I have ever eaten as an accompaniment. For mains, the delectable lamb shoulder - Epaule d'agneau braisée, panais, patate douce paired with a Merlot. To finish off my dessert was a fraise et yaourt: yoghurt bavarois, strawberry jelly & jam. I left after many happy hours spent in this hidden gem with its large bay windows, having a new appreciation for some genuine authentic french food. *Recommendation: For a taste of France, you cannot go wrong frequenting this gem tucked away in one of Linden's less busy streets.
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  • I finally made it to A la Bouffe and this family run restaurant with lots of french flair did not disappoint! 'Fantastic French' cuisine is truly a title that chef Romuald Denesle lives up to and this multi-award winning French Chef uses his imagination and creativity to its fullest potential. A bit about the chef for those of you who are interested - Romuald Denesle has worked under Marc Chalopin at Charlot Roi des Coquillages and at Louis Grondard’s two-star Michelin Restaurant, Dormant before moving to London to do amazing things there, and then finally settling in sunny South Africa. Onto the feast prepared for me.. To start, I selected the pate. Pâté de foie: liver parfait paired with Beaujolais-Vilages and it arrived with the most delicious freshly baked bread that I have ever eaten as an accompaniment. For mains, the delectable lamb shoulder - Epaule d'agneau braisée, panais, patate douce paired with a Merlot. To finish off my dessert was a fraise et yaourt: yoghurt bavarois, strawberry jelly & jam. I left after many happy hours spent in this hidden gem with its large bay windows, having a new appreciation for some genuine authentic french food. *Recommendation: For a taste of France, you cannot go wrong frequenting this gem tucked away in one of Linden's less busy streets.
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  • I finally made it to A la Bouffe and this family run restaurant with lots of french flair did not disappoint! 'Fantastic French' cuisine is truly a title that chef Romuald Denesle lives up to and this multi-award winning French Chef uses his imagination and creativity to its fullest potential. A bit about the chef for those of you who are interested - Romuald Denesle has worked under Marc Chalopin at Charlot Roi des Coquillages and at Louis Grondard’s two-star Michelin Restaurant, Dormant before moving to London to do amazing things there, and then finally settling in sunny South Africa. Onto the feast prepared for me.. To start, I selected the pate. Pâté de foie: liver parfait paired with Beaujolais-Vilages and it arrived with the most delicious freshly baked bread that I have ever eaten as an accompaniment. For mains, the delectable lamb shoulder - Epaule d'agneau braisée, panais, patate douce paired with a Merlot. To finish off my dessert was a fraise et yaourt: yoghurt bavarois, strawberry jelly & jam. I left after many happy hours spent in this hidden gem with its large bay windows, having a new appreciation for some genuine authentic french food. *Recommendation: For a taste of France, you cannot go wrong frequenting this gem tucked away in one of Linden's less busy streets.
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    • Service
    • Food
  • I finally made it to A la Bouffe and this family run restaurant with lots of french flair did not disappoint! 'Fantastic French' cuisine is truly a title that chef Romuald Denesle lives up to and this multi-award winning French Chef uses his imagination and creativity to its fullest potential. A bit about the chef for those of you who are interested - Romuald Denesle has worked under Marc Chalopin at Charlot Roi des Coquillages and at Louis Grondard’s two-star Michelin Restaurant, Dormant before moving to London to do amazing things there, and then finally settling in sunny South Africa. Onto the feast prepared for me.. To start, I selected the pate. Pâté de foie: liver parfait paired with Beaujolais-Vilages and it arrived with the most delicious freshly baked bread that I have ever eaten as an accompaniment. For mains, the delectable lamb shoulder - Epaule d'agneau braisée, panais, patate douce paired with a Merlot. To finish off my dessert was a fraise et yaourt: yoghurt bavarois, strawberry jelly & jam. I left after many happy hours spent in this hidden gem with its large bay windows, having a new appreciation for some genuine authentic french food. *Recommendation: For a taste of France, you cannot go wrong frequenting this gem tucked away in one of Linden's less busy streets.
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  • Went for dinner over the weekend during loadshedding, so can't give an opinion on the decor. Service was slow. Unfortunately for me my 1st choice of starter, the snails weren't avilable so decided to try the fried egg, Perigord ham & sautéed mushrooms. It was average. Don't get me wrong, I have no issues with having eggs for dinner, but I just don't think this dish should feature on the dinner menu! My dinner companions had frog legs and the Pate de foie - chicken liver parfait. The parfait was good. I hate frogs so skipped the legs
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  • Fabulous restaurant, with a nice, comfortable setting (not too loud, which is a nice change!) and 5* service. The food is delicious (and very French), with good portion sizes. The corkage is very reasonable, although having seen their wine list, it's certain not necessary to take your own. We will definitely be returning soon!
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  • We went for dinner last night for the second time in about 2 months. Both experiences were excellent. The chef seems to change his menu regularly to keep it fresh and seasonal. The food is classic French bistro but still modern. We found it to be full of flavour and delicious . One member of our party ordered the chicken main which was suprisingly spectacular (I rarely order chicken in a restaurant). The menu contains French classics such as frogs legs, snails, rabbit, lamb cutlets and pork belly. We also tried the excellent asparagus and poached egg starter. The wine list includes a small but decent selection of French and South African wines. Its great to find proper French cider, Armagnac and calvados on a drinks menu. Decor is maybe a little sparse but we found it a very relaxed space to sit back and enjoy ourselves.
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  • Very disappointing. Food was not up to real French Bistro standard. The duck breast was good, but a very thin watery sauce let it down. Service very amateur and not welcoming. Unseen chef patron! The key to a true Bistro is to provide wholesome, well cooked meals, warm & efficient service, and most of all a caring chef patron - after all, it is his establishment and he needs to show his patrons/guests that they are an important part of his business. Needs a lot of work and TLC to call themselves a Bistro.
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  • Unacceptable service. Untrained staff. Too much salt used in cooking.
    Invisible Chef/Patron /Manager even though I greeted him in is own language
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  • Authentic décor and pretty restaurant. The space is tiled with no soft furnishings and no heating which makes it quite noisy and cold. The menu is classical French bistro, snails, mussels in white wine, charcuterie and a variety of salads including Nicoise and Lyonnaise. The salad Lyonnaise was dressed perfectly and very tasty but the poached egg was cold and hard and not soft and oozy. Main courses include rabbit, rib-eye steak with peppercorns and chips, pork belly and roast leg of lamb. The steak and lamb were delicious and well prepared. As part of the authentic experience the table gets butter and French bread on arrival, although you have to fight the staff to keep the bread for the entire meal for the delicious sauces. Desserts, a little disappointing tarte tatin which we did not try and a crema Catalan which was curdled and did not come with the proclaimed biscotti as described in the menu. Inconsistency is irritating since we saw all the other tables that had this dessert got the biscotti. But the biggest issue that this restaurant faces is poor service - untrained waiting staff that have no understanding of service or their own menu and an absent front of house manager.
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Facilities

  • Accepts credit cards
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
  • Food
  • Licensed
  • Lunch
  • Parking
  • Serves food
  • WiFi

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