Sunday, September 8, 2013

[Review] La Bohème, George's Street, Waterford

La Bohème opened its doors in Waterford in 2006, but it's taken me quite a few years to cross their threshold. This is despite that fact that I have been visiting Waterford regularly for many years now as the other half of a Waterford man. I thought that I was completely up to speed with Waterford eateries, but there's always an exception to the rule. It turns out that La Bohème was about to change my perspective entirely.

Chef Eric Tréze, a native of Brittany, along with his wife Christine have located their restaurant in the restored vaults of the Port of Waterford building. From the outside, it's a classically and elegantly proportioned Georgian building, with the entrance La Bohème off to one side. As we went down the narrow plain stone steps, I wasn't sure what to expect inside. A narrow doorway opens out with a cocktail & little lounge area nestled to the right and a private dining room to the left behind a velvet curtain. Walking down the stone flagged corridor leads to the dining room, complete with its beautiful vaulted ceiling. La Bohème has featured in Food & Wine magazine as one of the Top 10 Romantic dining rooms and it's easy to see why. The whole room just (discretely) shouts romance and intimacy.

The menu at La Bohème is a pretty hefty affair with several variations on offer, as well a detailed listing of local and Irish produce suppliers. All four of us decided that the €35 Market Menu offered the best value. It's a real treat to find a set menu that offers lots of choice, rather than an anaemic list of the more basic dishes. To accompany the meal, we ordered Rose de Rosine, a light, strawberry influenced rosé (supplied by Tyrrell & Company), which was on special offer at €25 per bottle.
La Bohème, Waterford
Dining room at La Bohème
To get started, we received an extra special amuse bouche, including an excellent spring roll of Ardsallagh goats cheese, terrine and rilettes.  His risotto of scallions, girolles, Parma ham with rocket, truffle oil and parmesan was superb, served in a bowl that could have been used to explain the concept of gravitational wells. My choice of starter featured both blow torched marinated salmon and house-smoked salmon.  The accompanying coriander and lightly curried mousse made for an interesting twist on a classic Irish dish. On the other side of the table, Mr H stunned us all by breaking the habit of a lifetime when he ordered the crab creme brulée instead of his more normal soup. His deviation was rewarded however, with a light and tasty pot of crabmeat.
Risotto of scallions, girolles and Parma ham
Marinated and smoked salmon served with coriander and curry mousse
Baked fillet of Dunmore East hake with confit fennel, parsley salsa verde and white anchovies was literally immense, the single biggest fillet of fish that I've ever seen served. Despite the size, the dish was clean and a perfect blend of French cooking with Irish produce. My main of roast lump of Waterford lamb was spot on pink, served with rich, flavoursome aubergine caviar and rosemary jus. All mains were accompanied with generous portions of perfectly cooked, buttered vegetables. 
Baked fillet of Dunmore East hake
Roast rump of Waterford lamb
By the time the main courses were cleared away, we were beginning to think that some heavy duty machinery would be required to get us out of our seats. Clearly La Bohème caters for an audience who demand substance as well as quality in their meals. (I call this the country effect. Outside of Dublin, larger portions are more in demand, making it a risky business to spend extended periods outside the Pale). Somehow though, nearly miraculously we all found room for dessert. It was nearly a clean sweep for the creme brûlée with salty caramel ice-cream, although Mrs H did buck the trend by choosing the classic chocolate and coffee L'Opera cake. 
Creme brûlée with salty caramel ice-cream
We had taken our seats early in the night when the dining room was still quiet and peaceful. By the end of our meal, the room was full, with the accompanying level of background noise. The brightly lit kitchen pass allowed us to see the chefs at work, as well as giving us a voyeuristic view on all the plates leaving the pass. Service was attentive and excellent throughout, even to the point of correct wine pouring etiquette. 

Afterwards, we walked along the Quays in the setting sun in an effort to assuage the culinary damage we had done to ourselves. La Bohème is a hidden gem, sitting quietly below street level. But then, treasures are often found underground.

Waterford Restaurant Trail
La Bohème have teamed up with the Bodega to bring diners a Waterford Restaurant Trail every Wednesday. Both restaurants take pride in sourcing local and Irish produce and have designed menus to showcase local produce. The Trail will alternate its starting point every week, with amuse bouche, starter and fish course in the first restaurant. You will then be taken on a guided walk to the second venue where you enjoy the meat, dessert and tea/coffee courses. Tickets cost €39.50 per head. Contact La Bohème or the Bodega for further information and bookings. 

La Bohème, George's Street, Waterford
Tel: +353  (0)51 875 645
URL: www.labohemerestaurant.ie
Twitter: @bohemewaterford

La Boheme on Urbanspoon

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