Well not quite but we did partake in a magnificent lunch time meal of French cuisine at the Ardeche restaurant, 222 City Walk in the City (funny that).
Set looking towards the fountain in City Walk the cafÃ© tables outside were empty on a pleasant if slightly cool and grey Canberra afternoon. Inside it was busy if not completely full. The dÃ©cor is more modern cafÃ© than traditional with just slight hints in the artwork to the cuisine. The menus on the other hand, although printed on slightly fraying blue/gray card start to give you an appreciation of the meal to come. Titles like â€œJarrets dâ€™Agneau au Vin Rougeâ€ are thankfully expanded upon for those of us like myself who havenâ€™t studied any French since Year 7 and the aromas and sights coming form the kitchen affirmed a high expectation of what was to arrive.
Skipping on entrees my party started with mixed bread while we waited on our mains. Although herb and garlic breads are nothing special the softness of the bread made it particularly nice.
For mains my mother ordered what turns out to be Ardecheâ€™s signature dish, Canard Ã lâ€™Orange, traditional twice-roasted duck with an orange and Grand Marnier sauce, served on roesti potato. It smelt and looked amazing and my mother, not usually given to undue adulation, used on three successive mouthfuls the term divine. And indeed it was a rich, full flavoured and beautifully moist dish (I stole a morsel or two).
I ordered the Lapereau Braise Ã lâ€™Ancienne, slow-roasted white rabbit served on a bed of saffron risotto, white wine, prune and cream sauce. Again for a gamey meat with fiddly bones that can easily tend to being dry it was superbly done. The meat was succulent, the sauce rich and creamy and the flavours nicely balanced and complementary. Added to this was the bonus of when I ordered a white wine to go with the meal, instructing the waiter to pick one for me that would best go with the meal, I was provided with a wonderfully smooth and fruity Marlborough (NZ) Sauvignon Blanc. Iâ€™ve been reliably informed that the only other place that has figured out how to do a really good Sauvignon Blanc is in Western Australia.
My father has been having a romance with North African food of late and so took little time selecting the Poulet Tagine, a North African-style chicken with dates, lemon, spiced cous cous and minted yoghurt. This is a meal that cannot be made to order needing at least three hours to cook. In fact all the meals were what I would describe as â€œslow foodâ€, meals whose flavours are brought out by hours of slow cooking and are best enjoyed by savouring every mouthful. To accompany the Tagine and the duck my folks selected a 2006 Warburn Shiraz. Again a magnificently smooth wine with delightfully peppery Shiraz flavouring which will have me looking for a case of the stuff next time Iâ€™m at the grog shop.
Desserts and coffee followed with the choice difficult due to every one sounding delicious.
With bread, three mains, three desserts, wine, coffee and a Sunday surcharge it wasnâ€™t a cheap meal but for the quality it was excellent value coming in just under $60 a head. The service, including the owner popping by to give a helping hand was very good and unobtrusive, thankfully without the common trend of cafÃ©s these days of having staff be showmen.
Ardecheâ€™s website can be found at http://ardeche-restaurant.net.au/default.htm which includes full menus (although Iâ€™m not 100% sure the prices are current) and phone and email contact detail so you can book online but the link at the top of this post provides a much better overview of the restaurant.