The Bistro: Feeling At Home With Fine Dining
A few Saturdays ago long time family friend Sean Collins, owner and founder of Mise En Place, invited me to come dine at his restaurant, The Bistro, to experience their 6 course tasting menu and wine pairings. After a busy week and a serious lack of "date nights" of late, it felt like the perfect excuse to get a little glam and enjoy some French cuisine with my man.
Opened in October 2014, The Bistro is the first to bring contemporary French cuisine to our Caribbean isle. Their mission is to make you feel at home in the gorgeous setting (more on that below) whilst enjoying "familiar and comforting classics like Canard a l’Orange, elevated by local ingredients and the skills of our driven and passionate head chef. Our kitchen showcases the finest seasonal produce through a French lens, producing flavors that are familiar but also a little surprising, and most importantly – utterly delicious".
Having previously dined at the restaurant for a Slow Food event, it was lovely to enjoy the setting for a "regular" Saturday dinner service - (nothing regular about 6 courses!). Arriving early for our 7pm reservation meant we could take in the fabulous decor with the sun still setting and enjoy the fun company of those cocktail-ing at the Bistro bar with our welcome sparkling brut, Cremant de Loire, France.
Stefan (my instagram husband) and I then joined our quaint corner table to lap up the fabulous tasting menu which hit the balance between deliciously varied without being too much to handle - just! I have to say I was pretty stuffed and quite boozed by the end. I can't say I regularly eat 6 courses, even if they are deliciously light and yummy, but I suppose that's the sign of true value - we couldn't want for anything more! The tasting menu changes regularly and usually consists of 6 creative courses put together by head chef Michael Leonhardt and matching wine pairings for CI$99 per person. By course 4, our Confit Duck (see below), I had already thought this was very good value so with another two to go, I was converted! (Survey please - how often do bloggers get to eat 6 courses? Should I be preparing for this often?! Fingers crossed while I panic book into F45. Cayman Restauranteurs, I am ready! #shameless).
For our first course we enjoyed scallops with cauliflower puree, toasted crushed almonds and burnt butter - and for someone who doesn't really like cauliflower (unless unrecognisably covered in cheese) it was delicious! The wine pairing of Chenin blanc from Loire, France, was a light and very drinkable tipple to start off the evening.
Our second course consisted of some truly scrummy lobster toast, with sauteed spinach and mushrooms. The sweetness from the mushrooms against the fresh lobster was really, really delicious. Like you'd like to come for a brunch and just order that delicious. Our wine pairing was another refreshing choice of Remy Pannier Vouvray, Chenin blanc, Loire.
For our third course we enjoyed the theatre of a chilled tomato soup with grilled watermelon and local greens poured directly at our table. Although the flavours were perhaps my least favourite, the beauty and thought behind this dish really was impressive. Of course the third glass of white wine certainly flowed nicely at this point, being the Hugel 'Gentil', Riesling/Pniot Gris/Gewurztraminer, Alsace.
Our fourth course arrived with excitement to learn it was Confit Duck, a bird we don't often eat. The duck (which Stefan momentarily confused for a mini chicken, lolz) came with broccoli, crispy potatoes (e.g. crisps!), pickled beetroot and a lovely glass of Jean-Luc Colombo, 'Les Abeilles', Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cotes Du Rhone. It was delicious - slow cooked, and with a real depth of flavour to the darker duck meat, I could have had this alone and left happy.
Having naively scoffed almost all of the previous four courses, my waistband was struggling by the fifth course - but of course we persevered. The huge honk of braised mole short rib with three kinds of kale and crispy beef fat made sure no one left hungry. The quality of the slow cooked rib was tangible and although I'm more of a chocolate for desert fan (I had that coming), the contrast with the kale three-ways really worked, paired with a smooth but light glass of Chateau de Fayolle, Merlot, Bergerac. Delicious.
Never one to pass up desert, and especially not chocolate, we tucked into the sixth and final course with glee. The finale of this culinary feast consisted of chocolate fondant with sea salt, hazlenut sand, caramel raspberry droplets and a side of espresso martini to get us home safely. At this point we were well and truly...stuffed/fine-dined/surfeited/glutted/gazeboed/*insert elaborate french sounding synonym here*!
I'm certainly not one to feel overly-relaxed with fine dining. I have a fairly simplistic palette for food and wine (although I'm now an expert of lower-end oaky Chardonnays thanks to honeymooning in Napa). There can be a fair bit of unease when dining in an uber fancy, over-the-top Michelin starred restaurant. (Well, I've only done it twice so not much to go on there but you get what I'm saying).
In any case, The Bistro has got the balance just right. The interior design has been carefully crafted by Marie-Joelle Larocque Walker (known to many as "MJ") with items custom made or sourced internationally. The restaurant fit out was completed by Phoenix with oversight from Sean's lovely wife Angelique. The kit-out of restaurant really gives you that homey feel with fabulous custom floor tiles, antiqued mirror tables, wooden miss-matched wishbone or suede chairs and fab brass lighting. There are so many pieces that you'd love to have in your own home, which really makes the dining experience that much more relaxed.
If you haven't been to The Bistro yet, there are so many reasons to go. If you've been before but need an excuse to go back (really?!), then here are some upcoming deals to get your taste buds dancing, french stylee obviously.
Happy Hour runs every day from 5-7 pm and on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays you can throw in $2 oysters! There's also Apres @ The Bistro on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays where they open late for custom drinks and late-night bites with live music on Thursday nights (9-11pm) from the house band “Onion Soup” who also play at 6pm on Wednesdays for the earlier crowd. There are regular event-style dinners like their Royal Dinner next Thursday which is already sold out. If you've missed it, there should be some upcoming dinners for Good Friday and Holy Saturday, where they will be offering some fresh fish specials for the end of Lent. Stay tuned via The Bistro on Facebook to ensure you don't miss out.
If you're like me and operate quite last minute when it comes to dinner selection, why not try their Tasting Menu for $99 served most evenings. It will be the best ingredients shaped into the chef's own menu paired with some really scrummy wine. I can confirm it's extremely good value and you'll leave having explored some truly modern and exciting French cuisine. I'm already keen to go back to try their Cote de Boeuf (a take on Steak Frites I think?!) which I'm told is not to be missed – it's bone-in prime rib with shallot and garlic confit, fresh green bean salad, Bistro frites and creamy béarnaise sauce. You can have fries for dinner when they're French, right?
À bientôt mes amies