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Tucked in a little corner on Elgin Street, this place has a twinkly appeal lacking from many of its neighbouring establishments. Inside the cluttered French bistro décor is relaxingly familiar, if a little hackneyed, with vintage French posters hanging amidst various blackboards and a shelf full of oddly shaped glass bottles. However good lighting, plenty of candles, and the comfortable squashing together of tables creates a cosy, convivial atmosphere. The best seating is definitely located in the initial bar area, two smaller dining areas at the rear lack atmosphere by comparison.
The menu covers all the classics of hearty Gallic fare. Expect onion soup, duck confit, coq au vin, mussels and frogs legs alongside a good selection of salads. Escargots to start are well seasoned and served with warm crusty bread and butter. The generously portioned calamari is definitely fresh and comes on a bed of perfectly dressed salad leaves with a good aioli dip. Steak lovers will enjoy the Entrecôte “Ribeye,” which is of good quality and well cooked, served with a huge portion of super skinny, perfectly salted French fries. The “just seared” steak tartare—served with a carb coma-inducing side of fries and toasted baguette slices—would not win any prizes for presentation but is rich and delicious, if a little too rich to finish the entire, very large, portion. If you have room for pudding then the chocolate mousse provides a sweet and wonderfully light—if unexciting—end to a very pleasant meal.
There are plenty of wines by the bottle and the glass, and a couple of champagnes and desert wines. All are French, with a good mixture of regions, price points and vintages. There was no sommelier but staff were able to offer a recommendation. The Marsannay Pinot Noir was elegant and provided a light and refreshing contrast to the rich flavours of the food.
The service is friendly if at times a little chaotic. The table was not ready when we arrived and communication was not great to explain that we needed to return at a later time. A side dish was also forgotten but overall the smiley, attentive efforts mean one leaves feeling well looked after.
For about $1000 one can enjoy a comforting taste of France that will certainly satiate your appetite. Perhaps mores exciting cuisine could be found for the same price but Bouchon is a guaranteed pleasant and relaxing evening.