I was really struck by the number of good French cafes in Wellington.
Having never really been a regular diner fan of French food, I found myself eating not once, not twice, but three times in different French cafes dotted around downtown Wellington.
It wasn't just the menus that lured me in, although these alone were mouthwatering enough. More often than not it was the atmosphere that compelled me forward, the little touches of decor and decoration that made you want to pull up a chair and imagine you really were in Paris.
Okay so the array of gorgeously presented pastries, cakes and gateaux at Simply Paris may also have had something to do with my enamour, but so too was I besotted by the freshly baked baguettes for sale poking out of wicker baskets and stacked neatly on wooden shelves, the homemade jams and relishes on shelves by the counter, the wandering tendrils of silk flowers that lined the top of the dessert display.
Mottled whitewashed walls in aqua were adorned with framed prints, a large ornate mirror, a copper replica of the Eiffel Tower and ribbons in French flag colours of blue, white and red.
Cauliflower and blue cheese soup $8.00
My cauliflower and blue cheese soup arrives in a square bowl that is big enough for two. The pale nutty soup, quite thin in consistency and flecked with drops of olive oil and a sprinkling of black pepper, is not overly heavy on the palate, although the nuances of blue cheese become increasingly noticeable as I near the bottom of the bowl.
Long thin slices of sourdough bread are lightly toasted and served on the side. The bread is wonderful, with large bubbles inside and the sweet chewy texture of a dough that has had plenty of time to prove. It feels like there's a litre of soup inside my bowl, but I finish it regardless, and even the waitress who clears my bowl raises an eyebrow and smiles, impressed.
Ger baguette $6.50
Chicken liver mousse with cognac and port red onion compote,
walnut and salad
A ger baguette, spread generously with chicken liver mousse and dressed with a red onion compote made with cognac and port, is delicious. It's a simple yet magic combination, the richness of the mousse lightened by the sweetness of red onion, and offset by the bitterness of rocket leaves and the crunch of toasted walnuts.
Lemon tart $4.50 (takeaway)
It's another case of dessert takeaway as I struggle to finish my last mouthful of lunch. I'm not leaving without dessert though, and I'm so glad I did, as I sink my fork into the golden splash of yellow that is one of the best lemon tarts I've tasted.
The pastry is buttery sweet and crumbly, the lemon curd is refreshingly tangy. The chocolate eclair isn't bad, but it's the lusciousness of that lemon tart that will live long in my palate memory of Wellington, New Zealand.
Chocolate eclair $4.50 (takeaway)
181 Cuba Street, Te Aro, Wellington, New Zealand
Tel: +64 (04) 801 5486
Tuesday to Thursday 7.30am - 5.30pm
Friday and Saturday 7.30am - 10pm
Sunday 8am - 4.30pm
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8/15/2007 09:53:00 p.m.