Is French cuisine having a moment? Or is this just a backlash against the over-proliferation of pub grub, noodles and pizza? Whatever it is, it’s welcome.
While frequent readers may know that my taste is quite eclectic, incorporating everything – apart from Jellied Eels, Turkey Twizzlers and McDonald’s burgers – but if I had to survive on just one nation’s food, that nation would be France.
Perhaps it’s the garlicky persillade, the long-simmered jus, the whiff of Jambon persillé – or the simple delights of a freshly cooked crepe – French cuisine is hard to beat.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m something of a Francophile. For starters, I’m obsessed with the nonchalant style of Audrey Tautou and, well, I’ve developed a massive crush on Camille Lacourt, the French competitive swimmer and backstroke specialist – a Gallic God if ever there was one.
But back to the food…
I’ve come down to take a look at Le Pastis, a newish French restaurant in Blackrock Co Dublin, and, goodness, isn’t Blackrock quickly becoming a foodie heaven! Just around the corner, in the Blackrock Market, you have Heron & Grey (awarded Ireland’s most recent Michelin star ) and 3 Leaves ( providing a large range of deliciously tasty Indian dishes) – a locals favourite.
Located just off the main street, on George’s Ave, this stylish eaterie specialises in modern European food with a French flair. With head chef Nick Gonte (formerly of Jonny Fox’s Pub and The Burlington Hotel ) at the helm and a focus on ‘high quality organic, free range and natural ingredients’ Le Pastis promises a lot – but does it deliver?
The wide-open room, lots of dark wood with cream accents, is casual and comfortable – if a tad generic. Tables and soft seating are spread out so the space is uncluttered and the clean minimal dining area means all eyes are on the food.
When I arrive with my date, at 6 pm on a weekday, the place is relatively quiet bar a mix of staunch regulars, visiting tourists and local execs popping in for a bite to eat after work.The eager-to-please waiter ( I was expecting something a little more uppity) ushers us to the best seat in the house overlooking the street which is great for a spot of mid-summer people watching.
The waiter hands me the menu and here’s where the fun begins.
There is plenty to choose from including French oysters, frog legs and foie gras but I rather fancy the goat’s salad bon bon – with olives, sundried tomato, beetroot and mixed leaves.Now, it must be said that I’m a huge fan of beetroot – not only for the texture and the taste but also for that wonderfully bright and vibrant colour it has.
The flavour from the rich tomato and the beetroot together with the goat cheese makes this a tasty and refreshing starter. It is utterly delicious.So much so, I eat it a second time in my mind one day later.
Then, it is time for the main event.I go for the pan fried hake fillet with baby potato and ratatouille vegetables.”Of all the dishes on the menu, this is my favourite one to serve,” says my waiter. What serendipity: It also happens to be my favourite to eat – OK, one of many – but I deviate.
My large portion of flakey, glistening white hake is beautifully cooked, languidly reclining on a sofa of late-summer vegetables, its modesty covered by a drizzle of golden sauce.Delicious but if I were to pick at straws – perhaps a smidgen more flavour?
There is plenty to tempt from Baileys cheesecake and pineapple cannelloni but I love the older dishes. They just work; that’s why they’re called classics – so I opt for a crème brûlée.This dish is served on a crisp white plate, artfully drizzled in a dark sticky sauce, with a little white bowel innocently sitting in the middle, like a debutante waiting to be kissed
My stomach rumbles My mouth waters. I reach for my spoon.I have fun stabbing the crust with the back of a spoon before eating it like Audrey Tautou does in Amélie ( I told you I am obsessed).
It is shiny and crisp on the top but really very soft and gooey underneath – like a lot of people I know. I promise myself only two spoonfuls but end up scoffing the lot. “How was it?” my date asks. “This is not dessert,” I reply. “It’s crack, and I want more.”
While the tendency is towards rich, creamy, pungent, coronary-inducing peasant food in classic French cuisine, the offering at Le Pastis was lighter and more contemporary which suited me down to the ground.
The great thing about Le Pastis is that it’s not effete or prissy and it delivers the genuine French article at modest prices. I’ll be paying them a visit again soon…
Address: 9 George’s Ave, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, A94 N563
Phone: (01) 283 6880
Early Bird Special
Tuesday – Saturday
from 5:30p.m. to 7p.m.
Menu 2 Courses 19.50
Menu 3 Courses 23.50
Friday – Saturday – Sunday
12 pm to 3 pm