Thomas Maxwell Bistro is a perfectly French restaurant situated in the unlikely location of Sandton. It is the sister restaurant to Red Rabbit French Grill and the one that was established first. Whilst the two restaurants have similar menus, they couldn’t be further apart in terms of vibe, ambience and décor.
Walking into the restaurant everything felt so wonderfully French. It’s the type of place where you feel at ease and delightfully happy. Great attention has been paid to the detail of décor to transport you to France for a night.
The website describes the restaurant as serving food that is decidedly contemporary French with a New York style ambience. I thought it felt French – but hey great ambience is still great irrespective of what you define it as!
The restaurant is split into three sections resembling an open plan kitchen and dining room area with 50s styled furniture. The first two sections have the open kitchen at the end and the third is more private with a gas fireplace and wine cellar.
The middle section seems a little too cluttered and bustling so rather try to get seating in the other areas if you are on a romantic date. It is easy to see why this is a very popular place for business lunches/dinners, the restaurant is certain to impress diners.
The restaurant is owner run and we were greeted by the chef who took our jackets and read the specials to us. The chef is the only person that will take your starter and main menu orders. The French onion soup made with roasted red and brown onion for R62 was sublimely delicious. It had great flavour and is the perfect winter starter. Other specials to choose from for starters included a salmon tartare for R84 with light wasabi mayonnaise, seaweed, seaweed caviar and avocado or medium rare sautéed duck livers with a dash of cream, wholegrain mustard with Beignet and La Mousse du Foie de Carnard for R64.
The duck and porcini pietettes has duck rillettes, porcini and black mushroom in phyllo parcels finished off with a truffle porcini cream for R78. The mushrooms were packed with flavour and delicious but I didn’t like the duck as it bordered on bland.
The mushroom and wild porcini risotto includes ingredients of parmesan, truffle oil, porcini and black mushroom served with cream for R128. The rice was a little too hard and the flavours in this dish didn’t work well for me.
A main I chose from the specials menu was a chicken pie with roast chicken, porcini mushrooms, brown mushrooms and a medley of vegetables served with a red onion chutney for R95. The chef was quick to point out that I seem to love mushrooms (smart chef)! This dish was served with sides of butternut, chips and creamed spinach topped with nutmeg and parmesan. The filling of the pie was a little salty and very oily but combined with the red onion chutney provided a more balance flavour.
If you love fish choose the mains special of Scottish salmon packed with thyme, then poached, topped with a chermoula of ginger, coconut, lime, garlic, parsley and chives served with a mint pea mash for R220. You might be feeling a little indulgent then I would recommend the crayfish pasta where the crayfish is pan-fried with thyme and a chardonnay veloute crispy parma ham, parmesan flakes, seafood caviar and a smidge of truffle oil penne pasta for R258.
I was pretty stuffed after having a starter and a main but the dessert special of a warm chocolate fondant accompanied with strawberry ice cream and a berry coulis for R60 sounded too good to resist. The chocolate fondant was sadly over baked and the strawberry ice cream tasted artificial. Pistachio lovers can try the pistachio ice-cream with roasted pistachio nuts and a pouring espresso for R48.
Service was average, I expected more due to the restaurant representing a fine dining experience. We waited awhile to order drinks at times and had a long wait for the bill. I didn’t like that we were seated next to a service station which detracted a little from the experience. A unique touch was the madeleines (little French cakes) we received with the bill instead of sweets.
Thomas Maxwell Bistro provides the setting for a lovely memorable evening. It is quite pricey and more a special occasion restaurant. The ambience is really special – perfect for either a romantic date or intimate dinner with friends. Make a reservation to go, you will definitely love it!
Ring: 011 784 1575
Hop: 140 11th Street, Parkmore
Bistro & French,