There’s something to be said about a restaurant that offers consistency. And at French Toast, you’ll certainly find that in its fantastic wine list, lovely decor and the smug feeling that, by being here, you’re just that little bit cooler than anyone who isn’t. Unfortunately, that consistency also remains true to the shoddy organization and slow service encountered on our last visit.
Tonight, G and I are here for a friend’s birthday (a party of ten). We arrive, only to find that our massive table has been given away to two very pretty, very charming young men. The birthday girl is an easy-going honey and some of our party haven’t arrived, so she’s more than happy to share the table. It’s a beautiful beast of solid oak that stretches across the heart of the upstairs section, surrounded by the trendy diners, bottles of open bubbly and designer chandeliers.
We order our drinks (which we’re forced to do in drips and drabs because our very sweet but rather invisible waitress keeps disappearing to do goodness knows what). This means, of course, that the drinks arrive in similar intervals and half the table sits dry for a good fifteen minutes. Luckily, the lovely boys to our right let me shamelessly sweet talk my way to a small glass of the Willi Schaefer riesling, which I’ve been dying to try since my last visit. And it’s good… as only the best authentic rieslings can be – bursting with mouthwatering fruit, honey and a sweetness that is supported flawlessly by its solid acidity.
The French Toast menu is small but well-balanced with tapas-only choices ranging from cold to hot. There’s a variety of dishes to cover simple choices – like olives, potato wedges or mushroom and thyme bruschetta, as well as the more complicated choices (see the deboned lamb short rib – yum!) and you can order a selection of fine cheese and cold meats from the charcuterie section of the menu.
Maybe its a feature of getting on in life. I realise that I’m yet to hit the thirty-mark, but some of our party have settled into the business of being grown-ups and the pricing of certain items on the menu begins to get some of the guys a little worked up. G’s buddy to our right is locked in a heated debate with the pretty boys about why, when a bottle of wine costs thirty rand from the estate, the restaurant can have the balls to charge more than that per glass. He’s fighting a losing battle – I think we can all accept the fact that restaurants make their bread and butter from markups. But another friend, miniature chicken pie in hand, makes a point when he (rather horrifiedly) realises that each of his 3cmx3cm pies is costing him twenty bucks.
“Would you like a ten rand bite?” He asks. I do, and it’s sublime. Perhaps even worth it.
I suppose the thing with tapas is to not get too worked up about what you’re being charged when your tiny portions of zucchini fries and bite sized bruschetta arrive – together costing more than a full-sized rump at some restaurants. The point, I suppose is the opportunity to savor as many great tastes as you can – and so we do.
The fries are a very smart idea, battered, fried and dusted with salt and cheese. The bruschetta is delicious, as is the bite of pork lion with apple puree and mustard sauce I get to sample. Unfortunately, the kitchen is horribly co-ordinated and there’s about a half an hour wait between the arrival of our little bowl of fries and the last round of short ribs (rolled in sinew and deliciously tender – credit where credit is due). The consequence of this, of course, is that no matter how divine the food, the restaurant is left with half a table of irritable people with nothing on their table while the others tuck in to their own meagre portions. And at the end of the evening, it’s a whopper of a bill that arrives and leaves everyone feeling a little hungry and a little hard done by.
Thank heavens for the 24-hour Woolies at the Engen garage, where G runs in for a cheese and mushroom burger and a pack of honey mustard chicken fillets.
Sadly, they’re the best and most satisfying meal of the night.