Bistro MichelThe great thing about going to a restaurant with a group of friends is the chance to try lots of different dishes.
Unless you all decide to choose exactly the same – which is what happened over supper at Bistro Michel. Not because there was nothing else to tempt us on the menu. Just that the Duck & Cherry Pie is a kind of signature dish for chef Michel Morand and has a 25-year track record.
Morand now holds court at Bistro Michel in Johannesburg’s Blubird Centre. His reputation is the drawcard, since he previously owned the five-star Auberge Michel and before that was a partner in Gatriles, another fine old favourite.
Bistro Michel was pumping on the night we booked, and it’s quite a small place with tables close enough to see what other diners are eating. That reinforced the pie idea, because they looked delicious.
The wine list includes a choice of carafes, and we ordered a litre of Herold Pinot Noir for R280. Non-wine drinking Alan ordered a Black Label, and when it failed to materialise he told another waiter, who appeared proffering two large craft beers. He popped the lids on both, poured samples, and asked Alan to pick the one he preferred. He left with the other, joking that he’d scored a beer for himself too. It was a nice touch, and typical of the friendly service throughout the evening.
Our waitress Phindi kept a discreet eye on us from a distance, there when you needed her, absent when you didn’t. After we ordered our meals she brought home-baked bread, which was absolutely delicious. It staved off hunger long enough for me to only realise after an hour that our meals still hadn’t appeared. At that precise moment the waiters descended. Three pies, one kabeljou, one Scottish salmon and several side orders. The main meals, pricy as they are at R105 to R175, don’t come with anything in the way of veggies unless you order them separately. Bistro Michel is all about fine food and pretty presentation rather than filling you up and sending you home with a doggy bag.
We picked gratin de broccoli, pomme frites, mashed potatoes and potato risolés, at R30 each.
The salmon came with green pea puree and Hollandaise sauce, but that was more a decoration than a serious filler. Hilary had asked for her salmon to be cooked rather than merely teased with a quick searing, apologising if that wasn’t how the chef preferred to serve it. Her verdict – “cooked and very good.”
She went into raptures about the mash, and finished off the generous cheesy topping on my broccoli, while the potato risolés, or fried potato cubes, were popular all round.
The famed Duck & Cherry Pie for R150 is very good, with the fruit counterbalancing the rich meat and a dash of port deliciously, under light and lovely flaky pastry.
We had overlooked the starters to leave room for dessert, although you could do a three-course meal without bursting the waistband. Some sounded delicious, like mixed lentils salad and pork cheek and foie gras terrine.
Instead we had chocolate fondant with crème Anglaise, crème brulée and crumble oat and nuts with poached pear and chocolate sauce. That last one was a little odd, and personally I’d increase the oaty topping, serve the filling a little drier and swap the chocolate sauce for custard. But if Morand wanted a traditional crumble on the menu, no doubt he’d have put it there.
Brulée was the winner, while the chocolate fondant, which Phindi told us takes 12 minutes, sparked a debate about whether it had been left a minute too long and had a slightly singed top. Everything beneath it was fabulous though, all melty, warming and comforting.
Morand visited every table during the evening, mostly collecting complements, I imagine. He’s created a cosy, vibey atmosphere, with mellow music in the background, well-trained supervisors to make sure the younger waiters learn their craft properly, and food that gets you talking as well as salivating.
Blubird Shopping Centre
Tel: 011 440 0769
Five main courses with side dishes, three desserts, two carafes of wine and a craft beer cost R1,573.
Photos courtesy of Fransisco Nwamba.
First published in the Sunday Independent