Bistro Vine, Parkhurst – Restaurant Review – 17th August 2012

Magnifique!

4th Avenue Parkhurst has become a hotspot for Joburg’s well-heeled, and it boasts some equally trendy restaurants.  Bistro Vine is really stylish and effortlessly attracts an upmarket crowd.  We went for a delightful dinner on Friday night with a group of friends.

The interior is more sophisticated than the name suggests.  Dark wood panels contrast with sharp, white tablecloths and shabby-chic chairs.  The walls are adorned with Francophile intrigues and the reassuringly large, chalk-board wine list.  It was full when we arrived, the vibe relaxed and festive.  This is just the kind of treat one needs to unwind after a busy working week.

We started off with a round of refreshing, cold Kir Royales.  All featured a submerged glacé cherry – which might not be to everyone’s taste.  Appraising the extensive wine list was a highpoint.  There is an interesting choice of South African wine and a good selection of French too.  The manageress was infectiously enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the wines on offer.  This was heartening.  We had a David Sadie White and a Cotes du Rhone red.  Both wines were served in the prescribed manner.

The menu features an interesting range of dishes, not all of which are French.  There are a couple of Asian-inspired starters and a pasta section.  There were five of us, so we ordered quite a variety.

Amongst our favourite starters was the smoked salmon served on a hot, crisp sweet corn fritter with avo, spring onion and wasabi-scented crème fraiche.  The chicken and porcini mushroom phyllo parcels with roasted red pepper sauce and crispy bacon were a treat.  These moist morsels burst with flavour and a host of complimentary textures.  I had the roasted cherry tomato, leek and goats cheese tart.  The pastry was buttery and crisp, adding texture to the deliciously appetizing components of the dish.  The tart was topped off with fresh, creamy goat’s milk cheese and basil pesto.  This combination worked really well, with the piquant zing of the cheese followed by the deep, concentrated tomato taste.

Smoked salmon served on a sweet corn fritter with avo, spring onion and wasabi-scented crème fraiche

As for the mains, we really delighted in the moules frites – a generous portion of fresh, Saldanha Bay mussels in an exquisite white wine, cream and parsley broth.  A primary component of the broth is mussel stock, which adds layer upon layer of rich, gratifying flavour.  The dish was served with crispy, thick-cut French fries (the frites) and tasty, home-made mayonnaise which far surpasses the bottled variety.

Moules frites

One of the specials, 28 day dry-aged rib-eye with Roquefort beurre du Café de Paris was a real pleasure.  Soft, tender, bursting with intense beefiness.  Dry-aged meat is rested in carefully controlled conditions (cool and humid) for a period of time – sometimes several weeks – before cooking.  Simply put, this process acts on the enzymes in the meat, which then break down the meat molecules.  The result is a much deeper, more complex, meaty flavour with enticing savouriness, sweetness and some bitterness.  Dry aged meat used to be a rare delicacy in South Africa, but you can now get it at most good butcheries and steak-houses.  Another in our party ordered the roast pork loin chops, which was served with a lovely apple-based sauce and creamy, thyme-infused potato bake.  My only criticism of this dish is that the meat was slightly tough and dry – probably a little overcooked (though caution is required when it comes to pork).

We had two deserts.  The orange and Amarula crème brûlée was soft and creamy.  It was tasty, but those who love this classic may not be enamoured by the added flavours.  The bitter lemon tart with rooibos syrup and vanilla ice-cream was scrumptious.  Gorgeous pastry with a soft, bitter-sweet filling.  The rooibos accompaniment worked well but the ice cream had tiny ice crystals in it which was a disappointment.

Bitter lemon tart with rooibos syrup and vanilla ice-cream

There is also a selection of ‘verrines’ – small tasting desserts in a glass – great for sweet-tooths with a lesser appetite.  Those who didn’t indulge in dessert made the most of the liqueurs menu, enjoying ports and Armagnacs.

The service was smooth, professional and interested throughout.  One or two hiccups seemed inconsequential, and had no bearing on our thorough enjoyment of the meal.

Bistro Vine boasts the whole package.  Great food, a warm, happy ambiance, fine wine list and good service make this a must for dining in Johannesburg.

5 starters, 5 main courses, 2 desserts, 5 cocktails, 2 bottles wine, 2 beers, 1 Armagnac, 1 port and 2 espressos came to R 2000.00 including tip.

You can contact Bistro Vine on + 27 (0) 11 327 4558

Daniel Vine responded and said:

“Hi Harriet, thanks for your positive comments and feedback.  I will pass it on to the staff to read.  Regards Daniel”

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