Monday, December 2, 2013

Geraldine Johns reviews L’oeuf

You sometimes have to wonder: why would anybody set up a new café. And why would anyone visit? Clearly, people on both sides of that equation are still prepared to take the plunge. And on this occasion, at least, we are all the better for it
   L’oeuf sits in a nondescript bit just off Mt Albert Road. It has as neighbours a Chinese takeaway, a Mobil Mart and the Sound Hope Chinese Clinic. It is not Ponsonby or Grey Lynn, but it’s evident some inner-city habitues have already claimed this place as their own. For very good reason.
   L’oeuf has a nice and simple fit-out offering a space of enveloping welcome. It’s only new, but the cvs of chef-sibling owners Jasper and Ludovic Maignot, together with Jasper’s partner Celeste Thornley offer an assurance you are in experienced and safe hands.

   There are a few cake and pastry delicacies at the counter – all made on site and all of come-hither proportions, but it’s the menu we’re interested in. The dishes have names – which makes my heart go clunk (why can’t they just describe them?). It will swiftly be lifted. Consider the Cambodian (sweet black banana rice on salted coconut cream); the Russian (lemon vodka-cured salmon tartare on thick toast with poached egg and cream cheese) and the Geisha (noodles, cabbage, daikon, pickled ginger, with options of tofu or chicken).
   In my own case the title is self-evident. This is the Nest: walnut-crumbed soft boiled eggs sitting in a filo nest – true – sitting pretty on a beetroot ketchup, rocket salad and feta base. It is truly a picture to behold. “Too gorgeous to eat,” says a new-found friend at another table who has independently chosen the same. She is wise to persevere, however; it’s a rewarding medley of both harmony and contrast.

   My patron wants the simple stuff: Soldiers. Herein lies an exercise in how something that doesn’t work out right can in fact be effortlessly amended. The eggs are not soft-boiled as  promised; the dish is removed sans quibble, but with apology. They get it right the second time round, and deduct the price of the tea off the menu. 
   Simple, lovely and good. That’s all we wanted – and on this occasion, that’s what we get. L’oeuf earns more points for being devoid of the pretensions of some addresses closer to the city while still delivering tastes and service of upper-end proportions.
   The coffee is Atomic. That means it may be to your liking. Or you might have been so spoilt elsewhere you may have another preference. The tea is leaf, which is creditable.
   The brothers Maignot are doing a very good job here. Their efforts are mirrored on the floor by competent wait staff. There lies ample reward in an address of this ilk. It just goes to prove that sometimes you can have all your, er, eggs in one basket. 
✪ Geraldine Johns

4a Owairaka Avenue, Mt Albert.
Phone (09) 971 4155
Hours: Weekdays 7am – 4pm; Saturday and Sunday 8am to 4pm. 
Closed Tuesday.

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