(Published in the Cayman Compass Weekender, Friday, 31 October, 2014)
For a delicious taste of France head to The Bistro, the latest restaurant to open along Seven Mile Beach.
Located in the newly built Caribbean Plaza on West Bay Road, the inviting restaurant offers a selection of some of France’s most popular classic dishes, all in a cozy setting.
The restaurant is owned and operated by Sean Collins, known for his well-established catering company Mise en Place.
On the menu, diners will find great classics such as steak tartare, charcuterie, moules marinere, salad nicoise and steak frites, along with daily specials such as beef bourguignon, duck confit and bouillabaisse.
French cuisine is renowned the world over, famed for its rich flavors, refined dishes and quality ingredients, something which Collins said he is keen to replicate at The Bistro.
“I consider French cuisine to be at the forefront, and through my culinary training my instructors always taught French cooking techniques as the fundamentals to becoming a great chef,” Collins said.
“French cuisine has a long history and it incorporates so many different cooking techniques that it has become the basis for learning in many culinary institutions for good reason. The French are passionate about food. Butter is the bases of many French dishes and that could be why the food from France is so good. After all, butter makes it better! French cuisine is also famous for incorporating great fresh produce, cheeses and cured meats. We hope to offer customers something very casual and easy with good quality food in a unique setting.”
During a recent visit, my guest and I ordered a selection of French classics – “escargots de Bourgogne,” oven baked snails in garlic butter; “parfait de foie de volaille,” chicken liver pate with a dried cherry conserve; “soupe a l’oignon,” French onion soup with Gruyere cheese; and “canard a l’orange,” seared duck breast with parsnip puree and an orange jus. For dessert we enjoyed a decadent “fondant au chocolat” and a creme brulee – perhaps one of the most popular French desserts. We shared all of the ordered dishes and each was delicious.
The menu, while comparatively small (eight small plates, seven large plates, and a selection of soups, salads and desserts), is more than impressive. Indeed, I would have been more than happy with any of the dishes on offer, which made choosing what to order all the more difficult.
The restaurant’s newly installed head chef is Aaron Turner. Originally from Vancouver, he moved to Cayman in 2012 and worked as the chef de partie at Royal Palms before taking up his new position at The Bistro.
According to Collins, everything on the menu is made fresh daily. Locally grown ingredients are also used wherever possible, thanks to the owners strong working relationship with established farmers and speciality suppliers on Cayman.
“We don’t use any pre-made stocks at The Bistro,” Collins explained. “All our soups and sauces are made from scratch with fresh ingredients. Our frites are hand cut which makes a big difference to the enjoyment of those dishes. The desserts are classic French recipes. I work closely with our head chef to ensure that we are recreating classic bistro dishes. Nothing overly fancy, just simple presentations and great flavor.”
For the interior, Collins worked with locally based interior designer, Marie-Joelle Larocque of Crimsonteal, to create the inviting bistro-style restaurant with a modern vintage decor filled with French influences, from replica antique French tiles, chandeliers and plush leather-back bar stools.
Of course, French cuisine is so much more than just food; it’s about the enjoyment of a leisurely meal with friends and family, and, let’s not forget, fabulous wines.
The wine menu is extensive, especially considering the size of the venue. Wines are predominantly French, naturally, along with a smattering of California wines. The restaurant’s house wine, Domaine Pennautier, Langeudoc, is exclusive to The Bistro, and is priced at a very reasonable $7 per glass, or $28 for the bottle, meaning there’s plenty of reason to linger and soak up a little slice of France in the Caribbean. Simply divine.
The Bistro is open for dinner, Monday to Saturday, 5-11 p.m., with a lunchtime opening planned mid November, where lighter menu options will be offered, including quiches and sandwiches.