Bonne Soiree in Chapel Hill
Greg Cox of the News and Observer is kvelling over Bonne Soiree in Chapel Hill:
He gives it four stars, placing it in the same class as Magnolia Grill and Fearrington House.
Has anyone been to Bonne Soiree? Is it really that good? Info on prices and vegetarian/pescetarian friendliness would also be appreciated.
bonne soiree is one of the best meals i've had in the triangle. it's super old school, but remarkably well-executed, and the room is absolutely gorgeous. it's WAY better than fearrington, although not quite as good as Mag Grill. more different than the grill than not as good, i guess. they do have both veg and pescaterian dishes-- chip is especially talented at cooking seafood... they used to run a restaurant down at the beach, after all.
We went to Bonne Soiree between Christmas and New Years, and I think that may have something to do with some of my feelings about it. We'll definitely try it again, the food was good, some of it very good, but we felt like youngest people by far in the room (and trust me, thats kind of hard to do!), and like it was a little stifling. Again, this may just be because of the timing.
I have to disagree with HeelsSoxHound on the veg thing ... I have that night's menu in front of me, and there wasn't a single veg. entree. There were, however, 3 seafood/fish main courses out of 8, so if you eat fish, you're plenty safe here. And they were incredibly nice about leaving the ham off the savory tart for me (my appetizer ... amazingly good). So they may well be amenable to making a veg entree for you if you ask.
Ok, so on to the food. There was that great tart, very tasty with gruyere and caramelized onions (and regularly including serrano ham), and a quail egg. My husband got the soup - oysters, cream, fresh herbs. Very nice, simple. I then had the fish of the day - flounder with roasted potatoes, leeks and carrots. This was perfectly pleasant, and the fish was cooked beautifully, but it wasn't especially exciting. My husband got the ribeye, which came with incredibly good mashers - I had to hold back from stealing bites of those. He seemed happy with the steak. The desserts were truly killer - I had a walnut tart, he had a pot de creme. Both were, seriously, among the best desserts we've had in the Triangle (up there with Magnolia's coconut cake, which just slays me).
The woman who is at the front of the house (Tina?) is incredible - she's warm, friendly, helpful. I just wish her warmth pervaded the room a bit more. It was VERY quiet when we got there, with just a few tables (we eat early - gotta get home for the babysitter so she'll be happy and keep coming back!), and again, we were the youngest people there. And there were so many people working ... one person took our drink order, another came over and took our food order, another kept coming over to ask if all was well. It actually got comical, because we'd be in the middle of a fun conversation and they'd interupt us to do something or other at our table. It just seemed like it was every 2-3 minutes, and completely unnecessary. That and the quietness made it a bit difficult to relax and just enjoy ourselves. It did get pretty busy by the time we were leaving, but it was still eerily quiet (but at least it kept the floor staff a bit busier!).
Prices range from about $8-11 on the appetizers, and $23-37 on the entrees (at least the night we were there). Seemed to be a nice enough wine list. The room is pretty, but again ... just a little stiff feeling. This is the kind of place you were proudly take your parents to - very good food in a pretty setting, but not a very lively place.
i don't know about stiff, but i did mention old-school... and i think they're going for a more staid ambience. I had that tart the other night, too, btw... holy mackerel that was good. and the egg over the top? wow. i also had the oxtail en crepinette (braised, then wrapped in caul fat and sauteed... yummers.) again, not avant garde, but perfectly executed, using super high quality ingredients. I will say that my wife had the bass (prepared much like the flounder perhaps just a special on a different night?), and i thought it needed a little salt. minor quibble on our end.
as far as a veg entree-- i think if you ask when you make your res, or even when you get there, they're so accomodating about other stuff that i can't imagine they'd have a problem on that end.
with respect to ambience--i agree, it's not a party--i wouldn't go there with a bunch of my friends. but for a romantic date with my wife after a long week? exactly what the doctor ordered, in my case. i do think they could use some music in the dining room (or maybe i was too into my oxtail to notice it)...
i do see what you're saying about the hush of the place, LlM. I just think it's on purpose! *grin* sounded as though you enjoyed the food, anyway.
Oh yeah, we definitely enjoyed the food (and you are SO right - I think a little salt would have made a big difference in my fish that night). Also right on the music thing ... we left saying that same thing. My only quibble with the romantic date aspect is that whole business of the constant wait staff presence at our table. You really couldn't carry on any kind of conversation that you wouldn't want interupted (over and over again) the night we were there. I like feeling well taken care of as much as the next person, but this was a little out of control. My guess is that the timing of our visit (during the holidays) had a lot to do with the stiffness, and the possibly bored wait staff. We'll definitely give it another shot.
Old school is a *much* more polite way to put it.
We agree - the food is defintely very good (that tart!). Did you have dessert?
I'm with you, Lulu's Mom. I appreciate what Tina's 's trying to do, but at a certain point it becomes intrusive. And I find it so unbelievably irritating that she refers to all women as "madame," especially when it appears to be the only French word she knows. But yes, the food really is quite good, and it feels like a very unique, special occasion place.
yeah, we had a chocolate hazelnut tartlet w/coffee ice cream. It was quite good, although I'm not much of a dessert person.