Belfast Telegraph

Grub Spy: The French Rooms' sensational sauces make up for disappointing dishes

The French Rooms, Main Street, Bushmills.


I always get excited at the prospect of fantastic French food as it is the true classic cuisine in my eyes, so I felt compelled to take a trip to Bushmills to try this place out.

It was an unusual combination with a deli to the front, a gift shop up the stairs and a couple of dining rooms at the back, a real Aladdin's cave with bits and bobs scattered about and stuck to walls. We sat on something resembling garden furniture but the ambience and friendly staff still made it a comfortable place to be.

The menu was a little paper leaflet which could not have been more French even if it had been wearing a beret. I pondered over it for ages as I really did want to eat everything.

The starters were offered as a pick 'n' mix selection of small starters to be built into a sharing platter and it was particularly hard to limit myself to just a few as the promise of rustic French flavours always brings out the glutton in me.

Out came a big board with some attractive looking little morsels on it. We had little cups of rich onion soup with a strong tomato base which was different yet delightful. There was also a terrific but tiny tomato tart and a pot of creamy prawns which were too cold to really appreciate. This was all served up with some beautiful breads, although the butter was again much too cold and thus unusable.

Our mains lacked any visual impact with paint by numbers presentation of meat element, bit of salad and little pot of sauce on very small plates. As well as the lack of beauty, the meat elements were both poorly cooked.

I had been drawn to a fillet steak as it was offered with Béarnaise, the simple sauce I adore and it was expertly made but the steak lacked flavour and seasoning and had not been rested properly so was bleeding onto my plate. The other main of guinea fowl supreme was overcooked and a little tough but it was again rescued by a quality forest mushroom sauce. Every drop of the sauces got mopped up by the fried potato bite sides we got.

We agreed that whoever was making the sauces has some serious skill. There was also a sad side order of peas a la francaise which was an onslaught of blandness, with no discernable flavour.

The dessert menu was truly speaking the language of love to me and patisserie is where this cuisine excels. I got a wonderful little tarte tatin with soft sharp apples and smothered in sweet and sticky toffee sauce. The other dessert was not nearly as exciting as although it was billed as a pear, almond and chocolate tart it had the most minimalist morsel of chocolate in it so it lacked balance and the pastry bottom was granite-like. That was pretty much the story of the meal- flashes of greatness mixed with mediocrity.

The French Rooms dished out tasty rustic food but lacked the va va voom to really get me going.

The food:

Starter platter £13.55

Fillet steak £18.85

Guinea fowl £12.85

3 side orders £8.55

Tarte tatin £4.45

Pear tart £4.55

2 soft drinks £4.20

TOTAL: £67.00

The ratings:

Food 3/5

Decor 4/5

Service 3/5

Vegetarian 3/5

The French Rooms

45 Main Street, Bushmills

Tel: 028 20730033

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