Hetta van Deventer Terblanche
Chef-proprietor Darren Badenhorst’s new fine dining restaurant is a welcome addition to the flourishing and varied Franschhoek restaurant scene. Accomplished in classic French cooking techniques, Darren has honed his skills over many years in Franschhoek, most recently at Grande Provence, and it is this expertise, combined with an eye for detail and knowledge of local produce, that culminates in his offering at Le Coin Français.
Dinner is a choice between a six-course tasting menu or an eight-course chef’s journey menu. Interesting choices for starters include poached duck egg and creamed yolk espuma served with confit pork belly and pickled mushrooms. Or you could go for the king oyster mushrooms, which are beautifully complemented with a Comté velouté, mustard pickle and forest greens. It’s excellent, whetting the appetite at the start of the dinner journey.
Seafood choices may seem complicated, like the butter-poached BBQ langoustine served with west coast snoek brandade velouté, aerated Boerenkaas, garden peas and cured pork-jowl risotto. On the contrary, it demonstrates the skill of layered flavours and textures combined with advanced techniques to result in clean flavour profiles. Main dishes present choices like slow-cooked lamb neck served with brûlée butternut spheres, Brussels sprout and baby onion cups; or baked hake served with a dill viennoise. They’re perfectly complemented with a garlic and parsley-stalk confit with flavours of sorrel and fennel.
An element of playfulness and nostalgia are introduced with dessert, such as ‘tribute to local honey’ – a delectable combination of bavarois, molten glaze, bee pollen, raw honeycomb, burnt meringue, rose caviar and flowers; or baked apple pastry with apricot gel, semifreddo, almonds and cinnamon molasses.
The wine list is exclusively focused on the Franschhoek region for local wine, and also includes a range of unique varietals from the French wine-growing regions to honour the French heritage of Franschhoek. A lot of thought goes into the menu’s food-and-wine pairings, which are spot-on and guided by Nash, the sommelier.
Darren brings his philosophy that food “should evoke emotion, encourage laughter and interaction” to life at Le Coin Français, serving some of the dishes personally at the tables and interacting with guests. He has brought together a professional front-of-house team that already works together like a well-oiled, knowledgeable team despite the fact that the restaurant has only been open for a few weeks. There’s warm hospitality, making diners feel welcome and at home.
The restaurant is situated on the busy main road, offering outside tables and elegant seating inside, with an open-plan kitchen. The décor is sophisticated and minimalistic in soft hues of dove grey.
The lunch menu is basically an a la carte version of the dinner menu, with a variation here and there. Le Coin Français is serious about using local suppliers, with a variety of mushrooms, fruit, herbs, vegetables and nuts grown at home in Franschhoek. As Darren owns a commercial fishing boat, the fresh catch is showcased on the Le Coin Français menu.
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