Rising out of the ashes of the sorely missed Pastis, a sultry new bistro and bar à vin has arrived in Three Lamps to satisfy the yearnings of central Auckland’s francophilia.
We arrived 7:40pm on a chilly Thursday night without a booking and peered through lacey curtains to a throng of smug-looking diners and an ostensible lack of seating. Never fear, we were led up a narrow staircase to a table inside a more subdued upper chamber adorned with the customary large-scale vintage French aperitif advertisements (somehow cooler here than in other French restaurants).
Despite our patience fraying slightly in the first ten minutes while we continued to await the arrival of menus, our teeny little French waitress was adorable and made the experience. All was explained when she heaved the blackboard menu over to our table. She then proceeded to very proudly explain the chef’s offerings notwithstanding her struggle to source suitable English descriptors (she could not translate fricassée to save herself). We shared a carafe of Côtes de Provence rosé (0.75 litre $29.50), just like one would have in any standard bistro in France (I am a big promoter of the carafe). The boyfriend doesn’t like scalloped potatoes so we asked to swap the dauphinois that came with the boeuf bourguignon for stir-fried vegetables. Sans problème. We then greedily realised that that meant we could do the same thing with the pavé de boeuf ($29.50) and changed our minds. This caused momentary confusion on a busy night for our little waitress (I could hear her running between tables reciting orders in French out loud), but all was well.
Boyfriend’s steak was a respectful medium rare (French chefs generally hate cooking their boeuf beyond blue) and my confit de canard (duck leg preserved in its own delicious fat - $29.50) was a showstopper. The skin was crispy and the flesh so tender the whole leg pretty much disintegrated before I touched it. Legendary owner Alex Roux of Pastis and Bouchon fame ran about the place delivering desserts - a little stressed, but still very natural. We shared a slice of warm tarte tatin with vanilla ice cream ($6.50). The golden apple slices were caramelized to sweet perfection.
We were some of the last to leave, bar the young French people sitting smoking at the outside tables like part of the décor. Alex sang Piaf while cleaning up the bar area. There are a number of good French restaurants in Auckland but this one shines over many of the others with its nonchalant authenticity like something lifted straight from the pavements of Paris. I adored everything about the place and will be going back for another French fix.