My sister, who lives in Cardiff, had been interested in trying out the French Restaurant Chez Francis in Canton, so as we were all together for the show Mamma Mia, we booked a table there for a post theatre meal.
Canton is an area, which over the last few years has seen the establishment of many good quality restaurants and small eateries…the Purple Poppadom and Calabrisella to name just a few. Chez Francis’s owner is the previous chef of the award-winning Le Gallois (now the also wonderful Arbennig) in Pontcanna and so our expectations for good food were high.
We were greeted by a young head waiter (who we later found out to be the owner’s son), and while taking off our coats we could already sense that this small, cosy bistro style restaurant oozed atmosphere. As we had only made a reservation earlier in the week (my sister is notoriously last minute and it’s usually relied on me to make bookings – winge over) our table was in ‘the bar’ area.
When we arrived we were pleased to see that this made absolutely no difference to our dining experience. There is no physical divide between the two areas, just a bit of a screen which only juts out a tiny little bit and from where we sat you are still very much a part of the restaurant and can still view the hustle and bustle of the open kitchen at the back.
As you would expect from a French restaurant the menu is mainly limited to rich meat options, so if you are a vegetarian or have fussy eating kids you may struggle (as you would in France itself!), but some dishes can be suited to dietary requirements if you ask. The wine list is also rather pricey, with only two types of red wine under £20 pounds. We ‘sipped’ the Cotes du Rhône (£24 pounds), full-bodied and very smooth on the palate.
As a starter, my mum had the mixed cheese and cheery tomato tart and my sister and I shared the ratatouille served on toasted bread. My mum said that the tart was very tasty, and she’s starting to tuck in before I’d managed to take a photo.
Both me and my sister devoured ours. I love ratatoiulle, so simple but so tasty. Whilst served on bread, the bread was good too and wasn’t soggy underneath the sauce. they were also very accomodating, with me not liking cheese they served the cheese on the side so that we could share.
For my main meal, I ordered the confit de canard (duck leg) with potatoes and my mum and sister both ordered the turbot with galette de pomme de terre (a potato cake), as the cod (which was the only fish option on the menu), was not available that evening.
When the meals arrived, the turbot fillet was, what can I say, ‘très petite’. On raising this issue with the head waiter, he apologised profusely and soon replaced the meals with a more respectable fillet portion.
What I was also impressed with was that they took my meal away to keep warm, rather than just leaving me to eat on my own, which often so many restaurants do. They even offered to cook mine fresh, but I said that there was no need, but again this shows the level of service offered. Sometimes, the way restaurants respond to complaints, really shows you what they are like, and it let me feeling super impressed with Chez Francis.
Take two, and my sister and mum absolutely loved their food. The turbot was cooked to perfection and the accompanying white wine butter sauce was as smooth as velvet. My duck lug was also appetising, nice crunchy skin and tender meat, but next time I would ask for fine green beans instead of the mixed salad (as per the menu), which I am sure, given the excellent service we had, would have been accommodated.
Moderate size starters and mains, not being rushed by waiters between courses, and wanting to enjoy the cosy and relaxed atmosphere for longer, dessert beckoned us…homemade Creme Brûlée and a Cafe Gourmand (a trio of desserts and coffee of choice). Now I’m not usually a dessert person, but these made me change my mind. A lovely end to a great meal.
Chez Francis is a lovely little restaurant and is well worth a visit. One could say it is on the expensive side given the portion sizes, but the restaurant is by no means pretentious. It oozes charm and character, and offers tasty, quality food and great service. I look forward to also trying their new restaurant which has opened in Penarth.
There were no large parties the evening we dined, so before making a reservation you may wish to ask if any are booked in, as it could impact on the cosy atmosphere which makes this restaurant a little winner…Bon appetite!
Chez Francis we dined at is located on Cowbridge Road East in Canton. Their website is: www.chez-francis.co.uk