The family-run restaurant, headed by a French chef, is charming. As for starters, the snails are decadently delicious. Order the bread basket to complement it. The four slices of baguette, served with olive oil and balsamic, are perfect for mopping up all that yummy garlic butter.
Make sure to ask about your order to avoid any unpleasant surprises. The rabbit loin with peas à la Française was dry and made up of a bowl of plainly cooked and under-seasoned rabbit meat with overcooked peas. The pork belly was a bit tastier and sat on a bed of parsnip mash.
To sweeten the experience, go with a velvety crème caramel or a soft apple beignet?
You’ll find all the favourites, from whisky, beers and ciders to harder liquors, digestives and softer drinks. Wines range from popular locals to international varietals.
Personable, attentive and warm waitrons make up for the bland dishes.
Relaxed, feeling almost like someone’s lounge has been extended into an eatery.
The main courses can be treated like tapas, or just supplement them with side dishes like chips, broccoli and potatoes and leek.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Eat Out reviewers dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Click here to read our editorial policy.
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.
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.
The small restaurant is managed by two service staff members who know the menu well. Bookings and billing negotiations is a pleasant experience.
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.
Keep an eye out for breakfast specials on certain days.