My first ever fondue experience, I was very excited. The thought of a garlic laden bowl of cheese scooped up by bread – what more could you ask for? I had been meaning to try this restaurant for so long, but just never got round to it, until now. We arrived a little late at the restaurant but was greeted by a couple of young, extremely friendly French men – and the intense smell of cheese. The décor was a little plain but in keeping with that French, warm and homely atmosphere with low, dim lighting it seemed just fine.
After a few gulps of wine to settle us in, some crispy pastry bags arrived filled with a cheese and mushroom filling. They certainly whet our appetite, I could have happily eaten a few more to myself. I should also mention the house wine was excellent value for money and paired beautifully with most dishes on the menu – both red and white.
We couldn't help but start with a French classic, Escargots à la Bourguignonne. Snails in a garlic and parsley butter sauce, served in the traditional ceramic plate. The snails themselves were very earthy and cooked well - sadly there just wasn't enough garlic, butter or parsley for that matter. With French owners who love garlic, I’d expected more from these guys. Or maybe i'm just too obsessed with the vampire repelling odour - a bit sad that i'm not pale, glitter glistening and immortal like Robert Pattinson though.
Next of the starters was Brie de Meaux pane. Brie de Meaux cheese (arguably the best type of brie) coated with breadcrumbs, red fruit coulis, salad, confit shallots and pine nuts. The brie was as smelly as I had hoped, not the neutral refrained-from-letting-any-smell-out type that you buy in the supermarkets for 99p. The breadcrumbs were well toasted and the cheese melted just the right side of sloppy. Unfortunately everything else on my plate (apart from the shallots) tasted bland and was very dated in terms of ingredients and presentation.
Apart from of course ordering the fondue, I also had to order another well known French classic. Filet mignon de pork au Maroilles. A pork fillet coated in sesame seeds surrounded by a Maroilles cheese sauce, fondant potato and French beans. In a way it’s difficult to criticise the food, it's all very rustic and simple. But it still doesn't excuse it from a burnt fondant potato rosti - which also wasn't seasoned enough. The pork fillet was excellent, cooked medium rare and very tender, it was the real star of the dish. The cheese sauce was definitely a heart attack on a plate, but a tasty one. Butter, garlic, cream and cheese - It's what the French do best.
The best part of our meal, and the reason we came here in the first place was the fondue. Fondue Savoyarde, which was Emmental, Comte and Beaufort cheese flambéed in Kirsch - why it’s flambéed in kirsch I do not know. I picked up my dipping stick, forked it into a piece of bread (and potato) then dunked it. The taste was delicious – just the right amount of garlic, well maybe a little too much (but I love garlic). The texture was as creamy and stringy as one might hope but I couldn't help but wish I had a few pieces or rare steak to dip in, maybe next time.
The dessert of crepe suzette, was served in sweet tangerine butter, topped with Cointreau syrup and vanilla ice cream. The crepe was very well cooked with not an ounce of chewiness. The tangerine butter lifted it and gave it that lovely fresh zing and the Cointreau was a no brainer – a crepe suzette shouldn't be left without it. The vanilla ice cream was also a nice surprise, light and airy with a good whack of vanilla seeds – no skimping on flavour with this dessert.
The fondue and desserts were certainly the highlight of our meal here at L’Art du Fromage. Service was of course extremely attentive but the French classics they were serving just weren't up to scratch and had been left behind in the times – presentation and flavours. If you make it down to this cosy little French restaurant then I suggest you order the fondue and a dessert, you'll be just as full and left wanting to come back. Don’t eat lunch, the fondue is all-you-can-eat!