What abnormality of the nasal cavities causes Durbanites to flatten their ‘i’s and say ‘wush’ instead of ‘wish’? It struck me on a recent visit there that I might have to ask about the ‘fush’ on offer if I was to make myself understood in any of the local seafood establishments.
I decided instead to continue my quest to seek out the nation’s most authentic and agreeable bistro, which I think I may have found at the Village Market Centre, Westville. The place is run by a real Frenchman, who recommended the ‘feesh’ from the list of specials. An excellent choice, as it turned out, but more about that later.
Le Troquet has been around for decades – since 1983 to be exact. In mid-2004, the owners, Gilbert and Annick Bordier, with Michel Lefort in the kitchen, moved to Westville, where they continue the tradition of French provincial fare in the land of bunnychow and breyani.
The décor is bistro – amber coloured walls, exposed wooden beams, red-checked gingham table cloths, framed Parisian caricatures and Piaf piped over the sound system. Gilbert appeared to announce the evening’s specials, which he did with an eagerness and enthusiasm matched only by Daniel Leusch of La Madeleine fame. Such is his passion that he was almost apologetic at having to make do with locally available produce; his native Brittany, for example, had many more different kinds of butter, salted to different degrees, on offer. But whatever sacrifices the chef has to make by using the local butter, the menu makes no compromises – no curries and burgers as a sop to the riff-raff here - just honest French country cuisine.
Starters included a salad Lyonnais, soupe à l’oignon, soupe verte, snails forestière, mussels Normande and a crèpe aux fruits de mer. I ordered the lamb kidneys from the list of specials. The kidneys came served in a crepe with sautéed mushrooms in a white wine sauce on the side. The kidneys were a tad overdone for my liking, but worked with the crepe and the mushrooms. My companions opted to share the assiette of pâtés, a generous home-made selection that included pork rillettes, a rabbit-based paté de compagne and a chicken liver terrine. These were all delicious; impossible to pick a winner here.
For mains, the menu includes a lamb ragout, oxtail, filet mignon with a variety of sauces, and seafood, including gougons St Tropez. I chose the kingklip (R110), which I was assured by Gilbert was a better piece of fish than any sea bass Europe could offer. The fish was beautifully cooked, tender and just opaque, served with a beurre blanc sauce that was the perfect foil to the succulent flesh. The lamb cutlets (R125) were coated in black peppercorns, perfectly pink and served with a béarnaise sauce. The fillet au poivre vert comprised two fillet mignons, flamed with brandy served with cream-based green peppercorn sauce. All of the mains were served with a helping of French fries.
For dessert, I chose what was termed the crème caramelisée, what appeared to be a cross-crème brûlée/ crème caramel. It was more crème brûlée, silky vanilla-infused custard with a burnt sugar topping. My companions chose the chocolate dessert and white chocolate mousse respectively. Pick of the desserts was the chocolate – the house signature dish, presented in the form of a miniature Alpine chalet, with a chocolate roof encasing a quenelle of dark chocolate mousse studded with rum soaked raisins, served with a swirl of raspberry coulis. The scoop of white chocolate mousse was served in a glass, infused with Grand Marnier, and set on a bed of fresh strawberries.
The wine list is limited, but offered a good range of reasonably priced options. The bill for three, including sparkling waters, a bottle of Backsberg Chardonnay (R130) and three coffees, excluding a tip, came in at R768.00.
You’ll like this if you enjoy French regional classics prepared from scratch in the traditional style, rustic but refined, with the freshest ingredients.
You won’t like this if you like the fush on a dush at your local Ocean Basket or John Dory, or if you don’t know your oignons from your rognons.
Le Troquet was reviewed by Like Father Like Son.