Friday, 8th February 2019 – French Affaire, Stony Stratford
I’d got wind of a new place opening up in Stony Stratford, in the space that used to be Cameron’s Kitchen. With Dan and Ailie having moved on, it stood empty for a while but is now a currently predominantly lunchtime place called French Affaire. However, back in January they announced that they would be opening on Friday and Saturday evenings for dinner. A quick look at the menu suggested it would be very much a French bistro-style establishment, and the prices were pretty moderate. We duly booked for dinner on their second Friday night, cancelled due to excess snow (for the UK anyway) and booked ourselves back in the following Friday.
We drove to Stony Stratford in a howling gale, parked up in the usual spot, and found ourselves in a half full room which has been nicely done out to look leafy and green. In the summer it will be fabulous, and the moss wall behind our table is rather fun.
We were seated comfortably and decided to try the cocktails out for size. Some imagination has gone into them so it would have been churlish not to investigate it a little further. The Passiontini was made with vodka, passoa, passion fruit puree and vanilla syrup, topped up with prosecco, and with a slice of dried passion fruit floating on the top. Very nice it was too.
Mine was a Rhubarb and Custard, which was made using Warner Edwards rhubarb gin, vodka, cinnamon syrup, apple juice and a splash of lime juice. This was sharper than the Passiontini, but just as enjoyable. My only reservation was that it took a very long time for them to appear after we placed our order, but it may just be that they haven’t judged their evening staffing levels quite yet. Our waitress also kept trying to get us to order our food before we’d got our drinks, but that may just be a cultural thing. Once we said we’d like to take our time she was quite happy to leave us alone!
Once we’d decided what we wanted (and finished our cocktails) we ordered a glass of Mercier rose Champagne each and decided to go for the “canepes board” which turned out to be a collection of four amuse bouche type things, including a mighty fine duck pate, some goat’s cheese, and a beef “salad”.
So far so good. Next we moved on to the starters section of the menu. I knew Lynne would go for the foie gras, but we wanted to try a few other things as well, so I ordered what they described as a Comte fondue. It was small, but incredibly tasty. The only problem was that without a small burner underneath it was beginning to set by the time it had made it to the table, and instead of being able to scoop it out using the bread and the vegetables, it needed a knife and fork! They could do with something like this (though not at Staub’s prices perhaps).
The foie gras, at the price, was not surprisingly somewhat sparingly used, but hit the spot in taste terms. I think they might want to rethink the plating though, as it looked odd – and rather lonely – on such a large plate.
We were both happy with what we’d had so we ordered mains to see what they could do with those. Lynne ordered the asparagus tart, with a poached egg and a selection of vegetables. It was very good, nicely judged pastry, and a tasty filling.
I opted for the beef bourguinon, which came with a very decent mashed potato (far better than one I’d eaten the night before – or rather attempted to eat, it was so dense and solid). The beef was tender and tasty and all in all it was the sort of dish you would be pleased to find in your neighbourhood bistro in France in the winter months. It was a classic home cooked bourguinon and none the worse for that.
We had a chat with the owner at this point, establishing that they intend to change the menu every month or so, keeping it short. I was amused to find that the rye bread was from Lidl, and slightly intrigued by her suggestion that they intended buying in confit duck from France if they can. This always strikes me as odd, because I really can’t see why you would buy your duck ready confitted. It’s such an easy thing to cook and if you do it yourself you have complete quality control. The only thing it really takes is time; it’s not quick, but it’s so easy a 5-year old could probably do it. Anyway, that aside, it had been a pretty satisfying meal so far but we really couldn’t manage dessert. We had some of the red wine (a Dulong Saint-Emilion) left though.
That meant we needed to share a plate of cheese.
It’s a somewhat basic place in a very good way, and the bill when it came was not much more than £100 including cocktails, 2 glasses of Champagne and a bottle of wine. I suspect we’ll go back, not necessarily for grand events, but for a decent meal out when I don’t want to cook at home for whatever reason.