There are not that many true fine dining places in Stavanger but I guess you can call Café de France this along with places like Nero, NB Sørensen 2. Etage and Renaa Restauranten (click on the links for my reviews). Café de France appeared in 1988 and after a few years they changed name (to Setra) but a couple of years back they moved back to the original Café de France name. The food is not necessarily French – it is just fine dining based on a European cuisine but I guess with focus on good ingredients. This review is based on a visit to the restaurant in March 2012.
Café de France is quite a small place located in what seems to be the basement of an ordinary house on Eiganesveien (just behind Radisson Blu Royal hotel). The restaurant logo is recognizable on the wall outside on the slightly pinkish house and when we arrived the front door was locked so we had to ring the doorbell and our host Emil Heimdal opened the door or greeted us welcome. After a bit of Valentine Rose champagne as an aperitif, we were ready to get to know Tuscany through some wine tasting. But I’m not going to focus on that in this review – let us talk about the food instead.
As I said, the place is quite small and there are only seats for like 35 people maximum and based on the video on the restaurant homepage, the kitchen looks tiny! But there is a nice atmosphere in the place with the neutral white painted walls, old wooden beams and some rather strange art works. The host Emil seems to keep him calm and is knowledgeable about both the food and wine that is presented.
We were starving after a long day so it was great when we got a selection of fresh bread. We also got a small starter before going into our 5 course meal. The small starter was a small piece of salmon with løyrom (not sure what that is in English), a soup and a pate. The salmon was excellent (even if I do prefer my fish fried/boiled/steamed etc) and the soup had a very, very rich seafood taste if remember correctly.
Our first dish was a cold plate of salad leaves, clip fish I guess and poached quail egg. The egg was perfect but the rest of the dish was a bit on the boring side. Keeping track of the dishes and taste is always a challenge when going to a place where you get so much good food but I’m trying my best to summarize the experience based on what I remember and the photos I have taken. Dish number two was also a fish dish: fried turbot with artichoke, Jerusalem artichoke and a sort of block on mashed Jerusalem artichokes. The fish was great in taste and texture and I enjoy Jerusalem artichokes. But this block on mashed Jerusalem artichokes was very bland and maybe this portion of fish was a bit on the large side.
The next dish was a real treat – a big piece of foie gras. I guess it is not politically correct to enjoy this dish but from time to time it is a real treat to have this but only in small portions. The foie gras that we got was served on a piece of bread and with a fig, fig juice and some nuts. The foie gras was just right in my opinion but the portion was one of the largest that I have come across in a restaurant here in Stavanger and it can actually get too big as it is rich in taste.
After a small refreshing drink to clean the palate a bit we moved on to the main dish of the evening: chicken confit with cabbage(?), potato and onion. If you don’t know about confit, I guess it can be summarized by slowly boiling e.g. chicken in e.g. duck fat at low temperature for several hours and it was previously used as a preservation method. Slowly cooking the meat like this makes the meat very juicy and tender. And this dish was also very, very good and the chicken was just amazing.
To round of the evening we got a dessert where we got one piece of chocolate cake topped with a chocolate cream and cumquat and a raspberry sorbet I guess. The dessert was not the highlight of the evening but as I love my sweet stuff I didn’t have any problem finishing it together with some Vino Santo. The restaurant also has an excellent selection of cognac that you can enjoy along with the sweet stuff that is served as you round of the meal.
Conclusion: We were at Café de France from 6 pm to midnight and the place proved once again that it is one of the real fine dining restaurants in Stavanger. Some of the people I was there with was not totally Impressed and felt that the 5 course dinner was too fatty and not as good as what you can e.g. get at Renaa. But in my opinion we got a lovely 5 course meal with wine pairing (with wines taken from Italy) and the best dishes in my opinion were the foie gras and the chicken main dish. A big thanks to our host Emil for giving us an entertaining introduction to various wines of Tuscany based on Sangiovese grapes. If you are going to celebrate a special occasion you should consider an evening at Café de France. You can read more about the restaurant on the restaurant homepage on http://www.cafedefrance.no/ . A 5 course meal is about 800 NOK (140 USD) and if you want wine to go along with the food you have to pay an additional 750 NOK (130 USD) but you can also go for a three course meal.
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