The first thing that struck me upon entering the cosy renovated bungalow that houses the newly-opened Slink & Bardot was how many women were there on a Monday night. The 60-seater restaurant (there’s also a 60-seater bar section) had maybe 4 men, aside from the wait staff, and I thought to myself, what a welcome change, considering the ratio is almost always skewed the other way.
We settled into our seats and called for some cocktails just in time to hear a loud thunder clap and the sound of pouring rain — phew. Quite aptly, we happened to order a cocktail called Sitting In An English Garden Waiting For The Sun, which was a concoction of gin, elderflower, cucumber juice, lime, egg white, and lavender bitters — yummy and packed quite a punch for such a passive sounding name. But then that’s true of some people as well, no?
Looking around at the interiors, my friend mused that this could well be our second Tasting Room (which we love) because the vibe was much the same, and what do you know, when Chef Alexis Gielbaum came out for a quick chat, he mentioned that the interiors were done by the same force behind Good Earth‘s beautiful restaurant, Pavitra Rajaram. It’s like we knew.
But I digress. Let’s get back to the important stuff. The well thought-out artistic and modern menu of French cuisine consists of small plates that allows you to sample much more than you otherwise would be able to. Small plates always remind me of my father in Spain, eating tapas and joyfully commenting that this is how people should eat, not like the super size ways of the Americans. And so it began…
We called for the French picnic basket to start with, and were quite delighted with the presentation. Little jars of liver pâté, pork rillette (a pork spread made out of salted pork cooked in fat and then cooled down to form a paste), a delicious red wine jam, toasties, brie, and a bottle of the most refreshing gazpacho I have tasted in a while.
It might seem gimmicky to serve it like this, in a basket, but I thought that it was a nice way to sample a bunch of things in one go. A nice charcuterie plate to go with it and we were set for round one. The liver pâté skillfully showcased a balance of flavour in a way that you could taste the liver without it feeling too livery, and taste the port and brandy without it being too boozy.
Round 2 was all red meat, with a steak tartare served with a creamy mustard sauce they called an ‘ice cream’ that lifted the whole dish. The cubed raw meat was well seasoned and not heavy to eat, and the mustard added an extra freshness overall.
And a buffalo cheek bourguignon (a traditional red wine stew cooked till the meat is super tender) shaped and cut into perfect cubes, sitting on a fondant potato and drizzled with red wine jus. Let me tell you, the sauce makes the dish, but more on that later.
When we expressed our amazement at how the dishes so far tasted French and not watered down to suit the Indian palate, Chef Alexis explained that both him and his partner Nick Harrison were clear about the fact that they did not want to compromise on that.
And that it was great to see that suppliers here had quality ingredients that would make that possible — from the parsnip to the brie (which he admitted was as good as the cheese you get in France).
The next 2 cocktails we tried, the Thai Me Up and the Birds And The Bees, were nice, but a tad sweet for our taste. Something about them didn’t quite match the food we were being served.
Anyhoo, from the classics, we moved onto the contemporary and asked our ever-attentive server to get us a portion of the Seared Scallops (imported), served with bacon, caramelised onion, and the most sensuous tasting whiskey cream.
The meaty scallop tasted well of the sea and played well with the bacon, but oh man, that cream. We couldn’t but get every last drop. Only, there were just 2 guys on the plate, which made us a bit sad. Alas.
The pork belly came right after, and before you say anything, of course we ordered it. It had the words 36 Hour in front of it, so you know it was tender AF. Personally, I thought they could’ve done without the emmental croquette they served with it and just added more of that creamy, silky sweet potato mash and sage jus. SO GOOD.
Like I said at some point before — sauces are king in French cuisine and here they are treated as such. Taste, texture, and presentation all play their roles, but the sauce, that’s what takes it to the next level.
As an act of pure greed, we ordered a portion of the duck as well, that came with a kalamata mash, butternut puree, and braised cabbage. Though it was cooked well, I felt like it didn’t do it for me. Maybe if we ordered it before the belly?
For dessert, it was a Lemon Tart and a classic French Paris-Brest. Intentionally toppled over on the plate, the lemon mousse was divine, but the shortbread, a little thick perhaps. And the crispy meringues were like little cloud bursts of sugar.
But in all honesty, the Paris-Brest, a choux pastry filled with praline mousse and served with rum ice cream, made up for any missteps (of which we thought only the cocktails were glaring) many times over.
All I can say in conclusion of this meal is that the French definitely know how to cook. And eat. And we’re happy they’re here.