17 July 2009

Ohh là là, j'adore Le Marché Français!

I've been on holiday for a couple weeks... well, more of a whirlwind continent-hopping trip than a holiday... but am happy to say I'm back in Wellington (though not re-adjusting so happily to winter cold and rain). Before my departure, E and I were up in Thorndon taking care of some errands, and I used it as the perfect excuse to visit Le Marché Français.

They're the ones who I got that fantastic Coulommiers cheese from back at the city market, and I had been overhearing various conversations extolling the virtues of some French cafe-cum-shop up on Thorndon Quay, but I had never visited myself.

Well, it's a good thing I live relatively far from Thorndon, because otherwise my savings would soon disappear into Le Marché Français' welcoming coffers. After a bit of confusion as to the location (it's inside the Woolstore building, up some stairs and round a corner), we settled into their light, airy cafe for a fantastic lunch.

I had the salade de chèvre chaude ($14) which had slices of toasted baguette, drizzled with what tasted like honey and topped with warm, creamy goat cheese, arranged on an ample bed of mesclun greens, capsicum and cherry tomato. The balsamic vinaigrette was just right - not too overpowering. Normally on a winter's day all I want to eat are soups or hearty stews, but this salad somehow hit the spot. I think it's because of the rich, warm chèvre.

E had the soup of the day ($8) which, that day, was a creamy, deep green mixed vegetable concoction which came in an adorable goblet-like bowl.

I'm not sure if this was due to E's soup order but before the meal arrived we received some sliced baguette along with olive oil and balsamic for dipping. Having grown up in the States where it is usual for restaurants to put out free bread before the meal (I'm sure this does nothing for Americans' waistlines), this was a much-welcomed gesture.

As we were eating we continued to peruse the menu and noticed they had escargots. I haven't had these since a French class trip to a French restaurant back in high school (when I was thoroughly grossed out by the thought of eating snails), and E had never tried them. A dozen snails are on the menu for around $13, but our lovely waitress suggested we get 6, given that I was full from having devoured my whole salad and E was somewhat apprehensive about snails. Not too long after, they arrived, in a cute little platter with each individual snail dunked in garlic butter. I'm happy to say they were much better than I remember from my finicky teenage years, and E enjoyed them just as much.

After all this, I couldn't leave without dessert. We were sitting near the counter, where a case of sweet and savoury tarts was staring me in the eye. But I resisted the gorgeous tarte au citron and opted instead for the crème brulée ($9) which is one of my favourite desserts ever. I'm pleased to report that it was divine, the scorched sugary crust easily cracked through with a spoon to the creamy, vanilla bean custard underneath.

Le Marché Français is only open for breakfast/brunch and lunch, so it doesn't have the kind of pretentiousness a place aiming to serve the dinner crowd might have. It's all class, though, in a very French way - casual, yet refined. And the staff (made up mostly of French) were friendly and attentive, refilling our water when needed (and even providing us with a second plate of bread after we piggishly chomped through the first one). Although we didn't have any wine with our lunch, it should be noted that they have an extensive list of French wines and suggest pairing them with various menu items.

They also have a deli/shop (hence "le marché) attached, where you can get any number of French grocery products, cheeses, and deli meats. Perhaps on my next trip there I'll write a post about the shop, as it is special in its own right. Definitely worth a trip to Thorndon!

RATING: 5/5 (what can I say, I entirely loved this place)

Le Marché Français
Level 1 of The Woolstore Design Store
262 Thorndon Quay
04 499 1834

Open for breakfast and lunch.

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