While breakfast might be the most important meal of the day, lunch is often overlooked. Words by Mark Bibby Jackson. Photos by Conor Wall.
The crowded dining room gave the game away. Apart from the large copper table carrying reserved signs, the only tables left were either in the small smoking section or outside in the baking heat, and this was no day for sitting outside. As we debated whether to come back on another day, the reserved signs were brushed aside and we were ushered to the suddenly available table. And this was just a Monday. We were not the only ones to hear that The Wine Restaurant is a great lunchtime option.
One look at the menu makes it clear why. A selection of soups, salads, hot and cold starters is followed by a wide range of mains, rounded off by a choice of three deserts. At US$10 for the three courses, this represents fantastic value for money.
We chose the goat cheese salad and beef carpaccio to start. The salad was full of crispy leaves and a light dressing sufficient to delude ourselves into thinking that French cuisine can be healthy after all. The goat’s cheese was spread on chunky white bread reminiscent of a Gallic Welsh rarebit. Despite this, the cheese was strong enough to avoid being masked by the bread and overall the dish was an excellent success. It was equalled by the carpaccio. Served with a similar salad and accentuated by parmesan shavings, the wafer thin slices of beef disappeared almost as soon as they arrived.
Pan-fried sea bass served in a Provençal sauce and seafood cassoulet were our mains. The generous portions belied the low cost of the set menu. The sea bass was cooked to perfection, allowing the full flavour of the fish to emerge from its seared outer coating. Although the creamy sauce for the cassoulet was tasty, the squid inside was slightly over-cooked and chewier than was desireable.
However, the proof of this meal was most definitely in the pudding. All pretence to wellness that the salad starters might have promised soon evaporated with the appearance of the chocolate mousse. Rich, heavy and dark this mousse is only for serious chocolate addicts. Although not packing the same punch the apple tart had a dash more finesse than its full fat friend.
We washed the meal down with a reasonable glass of chardonnay ($3.50), although champagne was available for those wishing to celebrate.
With an elegant ambience and fine service, the only slight quibble was that the food took a while to arrive—a consequence no doubt of the restaurant’s popularity.
Make sure that when you visit, you have plenty of time to enjoy the fine food. This is not a place to rush away from for your two o’clock meeting with the boss.