Venues

La Madeleine

La Madeleine
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Cost
R195 avg main meal
Ambience
Classic elegance
Food
Bistro fare, French
Payment
Amex, Mastercard, Visa
500
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Critic's review

Alida Ryder

Food
La Madeleine has been an iconic establishment in the Pretoria food scene for 30+ years and is, for some, still the epitome of classic French cuisine. Chef and owner Daniel Leusch develops the menu each day according to what he finds at the market and therefore there is a never a written menu and you'll be surprised with every visit.
Their legendary pork cheek dish will most probably always be on the menu though, as if it is removed, regular patrons will not be pleased. The pork cheeks are slowly cooked, resulting in the unctuous meat melting in your mouth. Other stand-out dishes are the excellent bouillabaise, which is subtly flavoured with star anise, lending just the right amount of anise-flavour to the beautifully-cooked seafood. The prawn bisque is another stand-out, with the flavour of roasted prawn shells and sweet, succulent meat dominating the luscious soup.

For a sweet end, their decadent dark chocolate mousse is a crowd favourite and the almond-flavoured crème brûlée is beautifully silky, albeit a little runny. The almond cake, paired with fresh strawberries and white chocolate, is an absolute smash hit. Some dishes can be a little under-seasoned, but the overall flavours are well-balanced. Plating is a little old fashioned but this is not the place you come for fine dining – this is the home of comforting, classic French country food.

Drinks
Their wine list is quite extensive, offering numerous French and local options. Prices are a little steep. If you are looking for excellent French wines, this is the place to go. They also offer a list of dessert wines (including the famed Klein Constantia Vin de Constance) and a few French cognacs and brandies.

Service
Service is where this establishment shines. Chef Daniel comes to every table to announce the menu options for the day in his very charming way. He is also known to crack a joke or two whilst doing so. The rest of the staff are excellent at their jobs and are quick to clear plates, fill glasses and are always at hand if you need something.

Ambience
Set in an inconspicuous home in the leafy suburb of Lynnwood Ridge, you don’t expect much on arrival. It simply feels like you are walking into an old friend’s home. The decor could do with a bit of an upgrade but the fireplace creates a very cosy dining experience.

And...
Go there on Sundays, when you can expect a 3-course classic French meal for an absolute steal.

(September 2016)

Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.

  • Ambience
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  • Diane de Beer

    Food
    The celebrated chef Daniel Leusch has stepped out of the kitchen to give his daughter Anne free reign, which she has grabbed with delight. He still roams front-of-house to entertain and chat in typical Belgian raconteur fashion about the menu. As you catch phrases like “pigeon with port wine sauce, mushroom ravioli and braised Kalahari truffles”, or “sweet corn panna cotta with vegetable and grapefruit salsa and home cured gravlax”, you realise the chef has found her groove. From their summer tomato soup with wholegrain mustard ice cream and black olive and preserved lemon on toast, to their perfect crème brûlée, now made with a layer of tonka bean-flavoured ganache, the menu is carefully thought out, with lots of innovation and imagination at play. It’s a new chapter, yet still pays homage to its spectacular roots. Interestingly, they’re tapping into a European trend and adding a simple diabetic menu to their repertoire. For good value, the bistro-driven menu on Sundays is a steal.

    Drinks
    Daniel is an expert and believes it’s their job to discover something different for their foodie friends. His pairings are perfect.

    Service
    With the charming Abu Baker Fofana in charge, it’s smooth sailing all the way. He has picked up awards and with good reason. He makes sure there’s no unhappiness in the room.

    Ambience
    Set in an old home, there’s a simplicity of style that states clearly: here it’s all about the dining. In winter, a fireplace warms the room, and the garden will be an inviting space come the warmer months.

    And…
    There’s also a private room that seats 20, which will be opened for special bookings.

  • Marie-Lais Emond

    Food 
    Well known for the many food awards that La Madeleine has won, the legendary Daniel Leusch – who’s cooking was all about sublime, French-influenced perfection – has now been succeeded by his chef daughter Anne, who brings a playful touch to the restaurant.

    Anne grew up in kitchens and then studied, cooked and cheffed her way around the international and local food world before taking over at La Madeleine. Her cheeky attitude to the classics produces joyful, innovative plates.

    Imagine a gastronomic walk through a forest, with a starter dish of morsels scattered across a plate, including braised Oriental mushrooms, smoky little tomatoes, quivering quail eggs, small curls of the rarest beef, and cubes of steaming hot marrow meat, golden outside and pink within. The dish is perfectly executed in all its fine detail, wonderfully entertaining and studded with culinary gifts.

    Another great starter could be the golden ravioli, packed with shredded, moist and thyme-laden lamb and a rich jus.

    Other standouts include almost-sashimi salmon with a fantastic asparagus mousse, a dense and beetrooty purée, a jaunty piece of toast, and seared sour berries. An exceptional choice is the ‘hunting season’ dish, which features exquisite springbok, soft as the accompanying pear caramelised in sherry, served with a green-peppered sherry sauce and that old classic, potato croquettes. Unforgettable.

    Desserts show a character of distinct merriment, too. This is one of the few places in Gauteng where whisper-perfect crème brûlée is to be had. At La Madeleine you may find it featured on a base of grated chocolate and tonka beans, which intensify its vanilla and caramel qualities and lift it off the plate.

    There is no set menu. Every day can be quite different, depending on what’s exciting and fresh. Most ingredients are sourced within a radius of 80 km; speciality items like chervil, borage and free-roaming birds are farmed. Each day’s options, narrated by Daniel, usually consist of about six each of starters and mains, a few desserts, and a pre-dessert platter of rare cheeses.

    Drinks
    La Madeleine is the sort of place where an aperitif is suggested – and often taken up. The alluring wine list is beautifully constructed, covering the bases from elegant to interesting and local to international. The sommelier is an inspired guide who asks you to trust him, offering unexpected suggestions that turn out to be brilliant matches.

    Service
    Expect faultless service and advice from the maître d’, Gerald Chikaria. It’s a full-marks experience from entrance to exit.

    Ambience 
    La Madeleine is now on a residential property, burglar-barred and unexciting; however, the interior is welcoming and cosy, with the décor showing an elegant, creamy-themed style. The atmosphere is warm and promising, especially now that the delightful Daniel works the front-of-house. His beatific smile and food descriptions are legendary.

    The clientele, especially in the evenings and over weekends, is typically diplomats off duty. Daniel has always had his devoted following; Anne’s enthusiasts seem to be a younger set, with the ranks still swelling.

    And… 
    Anne’s version of an amuse-bouche is utterly delicious and amusing. Don’t be surprised if you’re presented with a sorbet featuring lemon and raspberry, to be eaten with a runcible spoon! Don’t leave without having a madeleine or two with coffee.

    (August 2014)

  • Classic food with a fresh approach. The dining room is often full, so you may end up under the large trees on Sundays. Stand-out dishes: mustard kidneys, smoked salmon, mussel soup, brilliant prawn cocktail and strawberries for dessert. (EO mag 2014)
  • Food
    The thing that most excites master chef Daniel Leusch is the return of his daughter Anne, who has spent two years cooking in Franschhoek. Much of the new menu is her invention with his guidance. From the delicate amuse bouche of French onion soup with a dash of Parmesan; the seared tuna with sesame, tapenade, lemony sauce and quail’s egg; the deconstructed quiche Lorraine or the tomato soup with a grainy mustard to wasabi ice cream with black olives and preserved lemon on toast, everything is artistically plated, beautifully constructed and gets your taste buds shouting for joy.

    Wine
    They always offer something extraordinary. Try one of their classy cocktails.

    Service
    With Daniel in and out of the kitchen, and maître d’ Abou Bakar Fofana constantly on the floor, it’s smooth sailing.

    Ambience
    The mood is more bistro than formal dining, with fires burning in winter (even outside for determined smokers). With good weather, opt to dine alfresco in the private garden.

    And...
    They’re a deadly combo, Daniel and his daughter Anne. He brings the classical while she adds contemporary energy and exuberance. (DdeB, October 2012)
  • Hennie Fisher

    Daniel and his daughter Anne Leusch continue to entertain Pretoria diners. The main dining room is always filled to capacity with an array of clientele, so that one may on Sundays end up eating under the large White Stinkwood trees in the garden. From the best mustard kidneys to great smoked salmon starters to superb fresh mussel soups or a brilliant take on a prawn cocktail, it is classic food with a fresh approach. No one in SA knows better how to serve strawberries for dessert. (July 2013)

User reviews

  • Always the most tender steak and great service.
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  • The restaurant is like something out of the eighties. And not in a good way. Zero ambiance and looks like your granny's lounge. This appears to be run from someone's house with decor that has not been updated since the place opened. The smell of burnt fish permeated the place, while waiters took us to a table we did not want and did not book.

    Amazing that this bistro can have any positive reviews. It's a restaurant that can only exist in 1980s South Africa, where nobody's ever had an actual gourmet experience. To the owner: food is one thing, but ambiance is also important. Terrible, terrible, terrible. Avoid like the plague.
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  • Food not fresh at all. Over cooked . Had tasteless octopus as starter. Veal mediocre. Desert (cheese cake) was good!
    Dishes were typical of those in the eighties. I missed fresh, original flavours! Plating of starters and mains unimaginative. Mr Chef remember we eat with our eyes and taste with our noses IF THERE IS FLAVOUR...
    Service 5/10... Our waiter was very slow in bringing wine and ice to the table.
    Ambience: old fashioned. No aircon in the year of 2014,....... in Pretoria during February! When we want the glass doors to be opened, the door key was missing: .... NO!!!... THERE WAS NOT A KEY FOR THAT DOOR!
    This is not a wheel chair friendly restaurant. No special bathroom facilities for wheel chair users. Unable to move between tanles with a wheelchair..
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  • Heard a lot of good things about this restaurant however they need to freshen up the place. Ten years ago this food would have been acceptable but today I have to say mediocre. Octopus starter was tasteless. My main (pork fillet) tasted good with cabbage but the plating was awful. Over cooked green beans and very disappointing. Service attendants seemed good and efficient but overall cannot return to this establishment
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  • Food is acceptable, but can do with a huge injection of flavour. Service is good though and with the ambience they manage to create a genuine French feeling.

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Facilities

  • Accepts credit cards
  • Booking required
  • Child friendly
  • Dinner
  • Dress code
  • Fireplace
  • Food
  • Functions
  • Licensed
  • Lunch
  • Parking
  • Serves food
  • Smoking
  • Wheelchair

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