Garçon! Il y a quelque chose dans ma soupe des fraises

You may have gathered that I am pretty fond of restaurants, of any size and variety, but if pushed, I think I would say that my favour type of restaurant for atmosphere is the French Brasserie. There is of course a grand tradition of brasseries in France, especially in Paris, such as the Brasserie Lipp and La Coupole.

I was therefore delighted to walk into Francis Dupuy’s latest venture, Garçon! (Unit Upper 9 Mermaid Quay (tel: 029 20490990) where, from a modern unit, a restaurant with real brasserie atmosphere has been created – the long bar, of course, banquette seating, spherical wall lights, waiters in long white aprons. Perfect – even the design of the menu card seems particularly French – perhaps a 60’s look. The choice of dishes certainly keeps to tradition with a good choice of terrines, oysters, mussels, snails and some warm salads. In additional to a range of traditional main courses, there is a small section of “Spécialitées” – Tournedos Rossini, Chateaubriand, Plateau de Fruit de Mer Royal and last, but certainly not least, Cassoulet.

I must have been feeling particularly rustic on our first visit because I started with Salade Paysanne Tiède, a warm salad of black and white pudding and garlic sausage. I followed with the Cassoulet which consisted of a substantial duck leg, pieces of belly pork and an admirable Toulouse sausage, the latter to which I eventually had to surrender! CDC’s roast lamb came as thick pieces of lamb which was perfectly cooked with a little pinkness. Be warned, as in the French style, the main courses come mainly without green vegetables but the dauphinoise potatoes served with the lamb were an adequate accompaniment.

Another very tasty starter indeed is the Coquille St Jacques which came slightly differently with the scallops served on a bed of mushrooms and the thing that is the making of any French restaurant: perfect French bread and French butter!

Between noon and 6p.m. there is a Menu Bistro which contains some of the items served at France-Galles in Churchill Way but also contains smaller portions of the awesome Cassoulet and Moules Frites, together with, of course, the essential Steak Minute.

Having been partially defeated by the Cassoulet, I steered clear of the more traditional rich French deserts and went for the strawberry soup. This is a delightfully refreshing dish of baby strawberries, snatched in their youth, lovingly sliced and poached no doubt for many hours in a “je ne sais pais” liquor which was just the right balance between sweetness and tartness, the dish being finished off and prettily presented with a dollop of, I think, light crème fraiche. CDC said it looked to her like a bowl of Hartley’s tinned strawberries that her mother used to serve with Ideal milk – C’est la vie!!

Gilles Geroni, the General Manager is a welcoming host who would surely meet even with Michael Winner’s approval. His French team (not an East European accent to be heard) provided a virtually impeccable service – with a smile and no surliness!

Francis’s wines have always been good but never cheap! The wine list here provides a wide selection with some names, such as Madiran, being recognisable from other establishments in Cardiff! I was nearly tempted by a red Sancerre but that will have to wait for a special occasion! For a versatile red, I was not disappointed on two occasions by La Galiniere which is a good buy at £18.50.

Garçon! is perfectly situated on the upper level for sunny days and warm evenings with tables right by the folding glass doors and tables with French style wicker furniture on the balcony. I am looking forward to many visits!!

Richard Fisher

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