The newest edition to the Franschhoek scene is a restaurant really and truly for Franschhoek. Both in concept and in name, the aptly named “Le coin Francais” , which literally means Franschhoek, will embody the essence of the valley in heritage, cuisine, art and wine. It will feature cutting edge methods meeting time tested French elegance in cuisine, a carefully selected locally themed wine list to showcase the best local wines, a French sommeliers selection, and an ever evolving collaboration of art in the theme of photography.
'paying proper tribute to heritage and ingredients'
A short walk from the foot of the French Huguenot Monument takes you to Le coin Français, where the French Huguenot history is saluted in every nuance – food, wine, décor and music. Chef and owner Darren Badenhorst has created a faithful following at his small and intimate restaurant. Bright and breezy by day, at night dressed with linen and twinkling candles.
"Showing restraint is a big thing. I am conscious of trying to keep the food cleverly balanced, so we now have some challenging dishes and others simpler, that can speak for themselves," says Darren. Infinite care is paid to sourcing of ingredients locally, and supporting suppliers in and around the valley. All wines too, other than a handful of French wines, come from nearby.
New dishes will delight, old favourites have, at the insistence of regulars, remained. One is the butter-poached BBQ langoustine. "I am for continuity and consistency of ingredients, a dish may stay on the menu but evolve, or chop and change with tweaks. When a dish has been perfected, I take it off the menu," smiles Darren. His presentation is true artistry, each tiny ingredient making an invaluable contribution to the whole. Innovation is intense, seen in dishes like the roast cauliflower and Boerenkaas tortellini, with a smoked pork emulsion, foraged local porcini and hen's yolk (injected with porcini velouté) with puffed pork.
The palate cleanser is a creative take on the Waldorf salad with singular elements like one coriander seed or one piece of candied lemon showcasing this chef's focus and finesse.
"Our mothers' roast chicken is a team effort, each member clicking back into childhood to reminisce and offer suggestions for this dish – mash with cheese, crispy chicken skin or a candied-nut salad." The collaborative result is a triumph that any mother would aspire to.
Savoury desserts show Darren's mettle, with salt, smoke, acidity and olive oil colliding to produce a sweet ending. Here is a chef who thinks of flavour first, presentation second. The eight-course chef's journey menu, with a sensory wine tasting is perfect for celebrating an occasion.
"Acidity, texture and balance are key." Chef Darren Badenhorst