Thursday, 28 January 2010

Old Favourite

I've always been fond of La Terrasse de Ouakam. There seems to be a bit of commitment in the kitchen - to strong French cooking and quality ingredients. Unfortunately it had often been let down by odd imperfections. Prawn shells buried in your prawn and avocado cocktail and that sort of thing.

It's been a while since I last went, and I've had a few good reports since the start of the year, so decided to gather together a couple of willing sybarites for a proper dinner. A proper grown-ups dinner where you expect to roll, sated and drunk from the table having dined leisurely and long.

Service is from an old pal from La Fiesta, who keeps things nicely paced, and even manages not to annoy me when topping up the wine. The man clearly has a gift. Our sharpeners come swiftly accompanied by soft cheesy feuillette reminiscent of Greek bourekaki.

Outside on the terrace (inside is a little gloomy, despite the boutique stylings) the extensive menu is displayed on a huge whiteboard, with odd specials hiding on smaller blackboards among the foliage. Normally I'd worry about such a long menu, but since it changes according to what is in (pork, duck and rabbit at the moment), the usual rules don't apply.

Snails come swimming in a creamy, buttery sauce which might otherwise be overwhelmlngly rich were it not for the hint of tarragon lending a licorice lightness to it. Deep fried goats cheese with poached pears is also lighter than expected, with the fluffy chevre melting deliciously on the tongue. My carpaccio of smoked magret comes in a bright and generous portion with a dollop of fig jam. On the plate, the carpaccio is odourless, but then when each slice hits your palette there is a gentle Double-Gloucester style whiff of the farmyard, followed quickly by a mild smokiness which doesn't overpower the duck.

Compared with the fist-sized lumps of succulent suckling pig on my companions' plates, my coq au vin looks like a meagre portion. The sauce is a rich reduction though, and the chicken tender and full of flavour - as fine an example of the dish as I've ever hard. The suckling pig is something else though, stuffed with mushrooms and positively radiating piggy goodness. Sides of mashed potato have a few disappointing lumps and bumps, which only goes to prove the chef's French cooking credentials. Why is it that the French can't do mashed potatoes properly?

Stuffed to the gills, we pass on pudding. Our bill, including two bottles of a very appley Muscadet, a couple of Gazelles, gin and tonic, coffees, a tip, and a snifter of Cognac comes to about 20,000FCfa a head. Not bad at all for such a grown up feast.

La Terrasse de Ouakam
31, route de Ouakam
Tel: 33 820 74 07
Open 7 days, 9.30am to 12.30am

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