In these times of wanting the newest, greatest thing here’s my suspicion. If we found some 20 something chef who’d done work experience for a week with Marco Pierre-White and bumped into Joel Robuchon in a lift and he just happened to be from Alsace and wanted to get back to his roots and he served the same quality of food that Bofinger do day in, day out….he’d be booked out a month in advance!
Bofinger is owned by a large hospitality group who know how to run restaurants at a profit (this in some folks eyes may mean they lack soul). They are consistent, the food is good, ingredients excellent and service rock solid. All of this takes place in a wonderful building exuding Belle Epoque charm.
The kids were looked after well, receiving a colouring in book as soon as we were seated and offered a menu that comprised of a main plate (of which they chose Alsatian sausage with magnificent pommes frites), a glass of juice and a choice of several desserts all for just 11 euros. Lily’s fresh fruit came with a decadent fondue of rich chocolate dipping sauce and Patrick’s mango ice cream looked good, I have no idea how it tasted as when I asked if daddy could have a taste he said ‘I was too big’ and continued to literally inhale the rest (thank you very little Patrick).
A platter of four different, freshly shucked oysters came with a most excellent vinaigrette, rye bread and butter. We punched a cheeky half bottle of 2010 Durup Chablis ‘Fourchaume’ 1er Cru with the bivalves and it worked a treat. Some iodine and sea spray traits were evident and there was a pleasant waft of white flowers. In the mouth the wine had plenty of mineral and citrus with some glycerol sheathing its rigid spine.
As good as the partnership between oyster and Chablis was, I was way off beam trying to get a 2002 Faiveley Nuits-St-Georges ‘Clos de la Marechale’ 1er Cru to play with the Choucroute Royale Bofinger. There has not been such an unsuccessful pairing since Charles and Diana, it needed Alsatian Riesling. The plate of piggy goodness had some delicious sausages the highlight being a rich and spicy boudin noir, a smoky/fatty strip of lard and a brilliant knuckle of pork. The two other Alsatian food groups (potato and cabbage) were well represented on the plate. The Faiveley was absolutely in the zone as it closes in on its 10th birthday. The nose was vibrant and punchy with aromas of freshly tilled earth, pine needle sap, cedar and sweet red berries. It had good intensity in the mouth showing poise and hitting the spot between sweet and savoury. There was plenty of Nuits muscle to the finish.
The dessert list is certainly ‘ye olde worlde’ and we shared a tasting plate. The crème brulee was marvellous with quite a savoury custard. There was also poached pears with coconut cream, a thin slice of rich chocolate and hazelnut tort and a small but perfectly formed Paris brest. Coffee was again substandard and if I ever win one of those mega lotteries, after looking after immediate family and friends, my philanthropic efforts will be focused purely on sending as many baristas from Italy and Melbourne, to train the bistros, brasseries and restaurants of France how to pull a decent espresso shot!
Bofinger is our go to restaurant, we don’t hit it every trip but it is there when we need it and it is always relatively easy to secure a table.
"In these times of wanting the newest, greatest thing here’s my suspicion. If we found some 20 something chef who’d done work experience for a week with Marco Pierre-White and bumped into Joel Robuchon in a lift and he just happened to be from Alsace and wanted to get back to his roots and he served the same quality of food that Bofinger do day in, day out….he’d be booked out a month in advance!" Likely quite true.
Love your reviews for their clever prose, the inclusion on wine notes and frequent inclusion of prices.
I'm another fan of your posts -- and this makes us think to give Bofinger another try, it's been a few years. -- Jake
I've only been once, but never felt the need to go again. My experience was like PhilD's on maybe one of the "good" days, in other words, average.
As to the coffee, the NYTimes, I believe, had an article just last week about how France is having to look deep within it's soul about the state of coffee served there.
My opinion on Bofinger is the same is yours. It is always there when needed. My favorite place after the L'Opera Bastille. The food actually improved after the Flo group took it over. And also spent a mint to bring the neglected decor back to its beautiful current state. The prix-fixed menu of oysters, some simple plate and a chocolate dessert is not bad for 30 something euros. The waiter are crusty but truly efficient.
"The prix-fixed menu of oysters, some simple plate and a chocolate dessert"
This is an important point. In one of those style-over-content brasseries, one should always order defensively, something that a kitchen just this side of competent can't blow easily. Then one will have a nice experience under the pretty dome.
Which brings me to one serious issue I have with Bofinger. More than once it promises one upon reservation a table under the dome, then it does not deliver. A Bofinger meal not under the dome, suddenly it is not so worthwhile an experience any more.