The best restaurants appeal to all the senses.
It’s the clink of champagne glasses followed by rolling laughter at tables scattered across the room. The homely waft of freshly-baked breads as your waiter leads you past the bustling kitchen.
The clang of pots as Chef hastily puts together your delicate menu. The immediate delight when your first bite of buttery Foie Gras is as good as it looks. The swirl of your crisp white after the melt-in-your-mouth Murray Cod touches your lips.
It’s what you think, feel, taste, smell and see upon opening the brassy doors to food heaven for the next few hours, and Franca Brasserie, sure did appeal to each and every one of those.
Franca’s dining offering spans a variety of cities and regions in France and neighbouring Mediterranean coasts, which is weaved throughout the impeccably paired menu. The influence is not overwhelming, but rather accented which gives us immediate joie de vivre. Executive Chef Alexis Besseau’s love note to Europe, sees Franca celebrate a menu with bold flavours and locally-sourced ingredients, in a classic way. While many restaurants aim for cuisine with a twist, Chef has chosen dishes to excite and delight, without having to reinvent the wheel, which we personally love.
The story behind the name must be told too. For centuries in the Mediterranean, ‘Lingua Franca’, was adopted as a common language between speakers whose native languages were different. Because of this, Franca, promises to bridge cultural divides with open hands and minds, and an incredible food and wine list that transcends everyday lingo.
The restaurant itself echoes this ethos. We’re greeted warmly by busy staff, who still have enough time to ask how our day has been, which is incredibly refreshing. They grab our coats and walk us to our cosy table for two, where we’re surrounded by happy, well-dressed diners, whiling away the evening with wine in hand. The vibe is very reminiscent of European summers gone by, with tables upon tables ordering copious amounts of wine and big platters of fresh seafood, without the pending doom of work the next day – it’s a beautiful feeling.
After perusing the menu, and deciding we want pretty much everything, we settle on a few entrees to start. Out rolls the fresh oysters and champagne, followed by Pork with parsnip and roasted pear, and my personal favourite, the Scallops with pumpkin, almond and traditional Beurre blanc. We pair our starters with a couple of cocktails, which hit the spot after a long day in the office (special shout-out to the Pimp My Side-Car, with its Hennessy VS, Cointreau and Grapefruit & Lemon Curd, which I loved sipping slowly with my scallops).
Mains are shortly after, ordering the Corn Fed Chicken (which came highly recommended), the Sirloin and the most incredible Gratin Dauphinois we have ever tasted (and as we mentioned, we’ve eaten and drank our way through Europe before, and this absolutely nailed it). Every meat dish was perfectly cooked, which is actually not something that happens often – the chicken was juicy and the butter lettuce and apple added a crispness, to an otherwise, heavy main. The Sirloin was ordered medium rare, and pleased both of us (even though my partner loves his steak a little rarer than I do). The Gratin was creamy, but not drowning in thick cream or cheese. It’s a naughty dish, obviously, but we didn’t feel too bad devouring it at the time (or after). It must be said, that we did order the butter lettuce too, to balance out the meal (and even that was pretty special in itself).
While we were full because of the incredible food, and sleepy because of the incredible wine, we couldn’t leave Franca without trying the dessert menu – it would be sinful, really. Our waitress has given us pretty accurate recommendations so far, so when she suggests we share an Apple Tarte Tatin and a Lemon Vacherin (complete with caramelised macadamia and olive oil), we say yes because it would be rude not to.
While the Lemon Vacherin was pretty incredible, the Apple Tarte Tatin was our pick of the desserts by far – purely because of our preference, as opposed to anything else. We love a fruity dessert, and this one, complete with vanilla bean ice-cream, had us rolling out the door and promising to return.
And that, we will – especially if that Gratin’s a permanent fixture on the menu.