Another fairly newcomer to Elgin Street, Bouchon Bistro Français opened in January this year. From the outside, it looks like your typical French bistro, but once you get inside, this is even more apparent; with an array of vintage French posters lining the walls, hung amidst various blackboards and a shelf full of oddly shaped glass bottles, reminiscent of a French apothecary. A little Parisian window in the heart of Soho.
We originally had the intention of having a light lunch at a place called Pop Bites on Old Bailey Street but it appears to have metamorphosed into yet another Toni & Guy. Although it offers good hair cuts, I wouldn’t suspect it offers good lunches. Or even bad lunches at that. The point I’m trying to make is that, as Bouchon was a last minute plan B choice (not because it was lower on my iPhone notes list than our plan A, but merely because I did not want the huge meal which I ended up having), I hadn’t had the chance to scope out the menu, which I’m sure many of you know by now is what I always like to do.
Nevertheless, they did offer a good menu, albeit with pricier options than necessary: braised beef cheeks bourguignon for $238, roasted chicken bistro for $328 – not the kind of money I like to spend on the average lunch, but there is always a trusty set lunch menu: $108 for a starter and a main. All the dishes are very simple but also very traditionally French, with options such as country paté with toasted baguette, Bayonne ham with cornichons, or (my selection) onion soup gratinée.
We were sat on a table overlooking the very small kitchen, led by French chef Jerome Billot, and we watched as one of the chefs sliced more onions than I have ever seen in my life and slid them into a saucepan big enough to hide me in. I then watched with a big excited smile on my face, as the chef layered not one, not two but three slices of gruyere on top of my soup before putting it under the grill so that I was served a beautifully golden, perfectly cheesy soup in an iron pot. It was a little on the heavy side and I couldn’t manage it all, as I feared it might mean not being able to eat anything else, but it tasted good and the mild creamy cheese helped to counteract the strong taste of the onion. My friend ordered the tomato salad with goat’s cheese, which was apparently very nice but I think my soup was the winner.
For our main course, having seen another table being served the roast of the day with French fries, we were unable to turn the same down. It was roast pork on this particular day, served in a beer sauce. It definitely wouldn’t win top marks for presentation, as I would describe it more as very simple home-cooked comfort food, but it would score fairly highly on taste and the beer sauce was the perfect complement.
Almost unable to find the dessert compartment in our tummies, we very nearly walked away without one, until we looked at the menu and were intrigued by the chocolate marquisse with pistachio, which we ordered to share. A melt-in-the-mouth chocolate mousse cake, served on a pistachio sauce, this dessert was delectable. Ever so slightly too sweet and rich, I definitely couldn’t have managed it solo, but I wouldn’t decline ordering it to share again.
The service was very good and the waiters frequently asked if we were happy with our meal. I wouldn’t say the food was as amazing as your typical Parisian bistro, but they certainly make an effort in trying to make it so and it seems to be very popular even amongst HK’s abundant French crowd.
Our meal for two, without drinks and a shared dessert came to about $140 each. The wine list is reasonably priced and offers some great French wines from across the country, but I think the food coma alone was enough to make me struggle through my afternoon; a glass of wine would have certainly made me fall asleep at my desk!
Bouchon Bistro Français
49 Elgin Street
Tel: +852 2525 9300
Date visited: Tuesday 19th April 2011