When I first became vegan, a part of me decided I’d never go out for a “fancy” dinner ever again. After associating fine-dining with menus scarcely six items long (with wine lists five times the length) with one vegetarian option – if there is one at all – I thought I saw that ship sail away. However, most chefs will cook off-the-menu and that is what happened when Mum and I went for dinner at The French Café.
Mum wanted to cut more animal products out of her diet but didn’t want to stop going to one of her favourite restaurants: The French Café. When I mentioned an article I’d read that included The French Café as a vegan-friendly restaurant she called them the next day and made a booking.
First up was an amuse bouche comprising exquisite melon balls, a colourful medley of small tomatoes, nasturtium leaves, and a slightly salty tomato granita. The sweet melon had absorbed the flavours of the crisp lemon and oil dressing. It was refreshing and a promising sign of things to come.
The entrée was a summer salad that popped with colour. Baby vegetables including peas, radish, asparagus, beans and carrots, were garnished with nasturtiums, pea shoots, puffed quinoa and pine nuts. The clean vinaigrette tied everything together, but it was basically a masterclass in preparation and texture. Everything was served either fresh or lightly steamed, just enough to bring out the colour.
For our main, we ordered mushrooms served over polenta with a toasty, nutty crumb of amaranth, almond and dehydrated mushrooms with steamed silverbeet alongside. The dish had a satisfying balance of textures and a rich earthiness.
Our three courses became four with the arrival of a complimentary dessert of berry compote and berry sorbet; the flavoursome compote was the perfect accompaniment to the light sorbet.
The evening was very satisfying and the food was stunningly presented. The staff were friendly and the service impeccable, without being fussy. It was a nice treat to be shown the restaurant’s vegetable garden by co-owner Creghan Molloy Wright, who was interested in chatting about our experience of the vegan menu, and vegetarianism in general.
Naturally, a night at The French Café comes with a hefty price tag, but for a special occasion, vegans and vegetarians can certainly indulge themselves in a delicious night out there.