At Marché Français a diner can have endless fun with the French style café menu picking out what looks good and enjoying the sight of other dishes. I was with a group of seven which lunched there recently, in my case after a long absence.
The best thing about the place is that it is as French as ever. Some customers struggle with the staff’s heavily accented English. Equally the staff may well have difficulty correcting deciphering customers’ requests. I have learned from experience not to use my rather fractured and garbled French to native French speakers. It only upsets and confuses them.
I ordered a tarte provençale, the classic pastry tart with onions as a base, layered with sliced tomato with black olives mixed in. Or in my case just three little pieces. I casually mentioned this to the waitron, as she was clearing the table, as the chef had asked for feedback, and out of the kitchen came five black olives on a serving spoon to make up. A nice touch, nicer for being unexpected.
A small crème brulé completed the meal; rich and sweet enough to be savoured, but not so cloying as to be a sugary overdose. Although the café is upstairs in the Woolshed building on Thorndon Quay – with hardly a feast of foot traffic – and although this was a Saturday, the place was well patronised. I knew it had its champions and rightly so. Others at our table spoke well of the salad niçoise, the chicken livers and other tarte dishes.