Pots full of promise

2011-10-14 07:57

It may not look like much on the outside, but on the inside Le Soufflé shows why it deserves its fine dining reward, writes GAYLE EDMUNDS.

Le Soufflé in Fourways, Joburg, is one of the eight restaurants countrywide to receive its first American Express Platinum Fine Dining Award this year.

Irene and Marc Guebert’s newest restaurant venture – they previously owned Le Francais and Ile de France – doesn’t look like much from the outside.

Jutting into the carpark in the concrete-heavy Pineslopes Centre, it is pretty spartan inside too, with facebrick walls and black, moulded plastic chairs and just the trademark red- and-white checked bistro tablecloths to brighten it up.

However, what it lacks in aesthetics it makes up for in the food. And the speciality on this menu, making it unique, is the soufflés. There is a number of French specialities, which is to be expected.

There is a selection of burgers on the varied menu too – with toppings such as goose liver and port wine sauce as well as one with shrimp and béarnaise sauce. There’s also an enticing breakfast menu.

We were a little confused to find red Thai curry and crispy duck pancakes on the menu, interfering with the Continental integrity of the menu.

We also had a laugh when the waiter brought us slices of baguette and, when questioned, told us they had come from the Spar. It was very nice all the same. As we were on a curtailed lunch excursion, my friend and I decided on a quartet of goodies to share. Naturally our order included two soufflés – one savoury and one sweet to finish.

These take 35 minutes to prepare, so having despatched that order to the kitchen we added a Parisian gratinated onion soup and a tranche of French pâté with melba toast.

The three-cheese and hazelnut soufflé arrived first. It was a masterpiece to look at and as our spoons sunk into its fluffy light interior we were full of the expectation of a taste sensation.

The flavour was subtle?– some might find it a little too subtle and short on seasoning?– but the hazelnuts added a nutty interest to this soufflé, though I would have preferred them not to be whole but quartered, even if roughly. A little salad on the side would have lifted it too.

The onion soup was delicious, but it was the pâté that sent shivers of culinary delight down our greedy spines. This is no smooth pâté you get in a generic jar. This is a roughly made blend of meat and fat made the French way – chunky, flavourful and very, very more-ish.

But we had, without realising it, saved the best for last – the raspberry soufflé. This sweet delight arrived with a sugary crust of promise and the airy inside full of raspberries was beyond words. This is the reason I will return to this rather pedestrian setting – for this interesting eating experience.

The criteria for the fine dining award are quality and creativity of cuisine, service, wine list, décor and ambience as well as overall excellence and American Express card acceptance.

At first glance Le Soufflé doesn’t look like a likely recipient, but it has creativity of cuisine in spades. Though on this day the service was a little slow and confused, and the ambience lacking, at night this is probably vastly improved.

All together our lunch – two starters and two soufflés and a drink each – set us back R270 with a tip. A fair chunk of change, but I will be going back: there’s a chocolate soufflé with my name on it in the very near future.

Among the other restaurants to be given a first-time award this year are BistroSixteen82, Nobu, Planet@Mount Nelson, Reuben’s One&Only in Cape Town; Pierneef at La Motte in the winelands; and Gauteng’s Café del Sol.

Le Soufflé French Café is at shops 9 and 10, Pineslopes Centre, Fourways. 011 465-4116

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