Monthly Archives: March 2014

VOP: Petit Bocal – good enough to bottle!

Those of you who follow Poncentric will know I have a penchant for all things French so it should come as no surprise to hear that I was keen to try Petit Bocal located at 177 Sandringham Road, Sandringham and it obviously qualifies as a VOP (Venturing Outside Ponsonby). And what do I mean by “good enough to bottle”? You’ll find out later for those who need a little help with the imagery!!

We had a family brunch there recently to celebrate un anniversaire. It’s a lovely café decorated to evoke memories of Paree and things francais. And a number of staff are de la France so it has a great authenticity about it.IMG_3662IMG_3658

It was very busy at 11.30 on a Saturday morning and finding a table for 8 was a bit of a challenge. So we squatted at various tables until we managed to take over the large central table which met our needs perfectly. My apologies to the three people who got progressively squeezed out by our advance!

Coffee to get things started was top notch (my favourite – Supreme) as was the super juice [berry, vitamin c and echinacea]. Just in case you didn’t know Echinacea is a very popular herb, especially for the treatment of flu and colds. It is a genus of herbaceous flowering plants in the daisy family. So there. And they stock orangina [hooray] with those so cute bottles. So cute that Deb took away the empties haha.IMG_3659

The menu was very exciting with a number of twists on old favourites. Not surprisingly I was drawn to the breakfast bruschetta diced tomato, avocado, red onion and basil with crispy bacon, poached eggs and citrus hollandaise and crispy bacon (salmon gravlax also available). IMG_3665

Others had variously the bagel [w cream cheese, home cured salmon gravlax, rocket, red onion and capers] and the gluten free bacon, spinach and poached eggs served on potato with citrus hollandaise and w salmon gravlax or bacon.IMG_3672IMG_3663

Eating my breakfast bruschetta I was in heaven. I love the tomato/avo/onion/basil combo – even more so when it is finely chopped. The bacon was delightfully crispy, the eggs perfectly poached and the citrus in the hollandaise lifted it well above the normal fare. It’s a long time since I’ve had such a glorious brunch.

My companions were similarly captivated by their selections. I got a “teaspoon” of Deb’s potato and it was divine. You don’t share yours she said!!

The staff were a joy to deal with. Geraldine (from Brittany), Nathan (from Marseilles), Coco, Jimmy (the barista) and Georgina can take a bow for all contributing to what was a very memorable celebration.

This delightful café got everything right and I can’t wait to go back.

Next time I might also sample the “patisserie” selection that included fantastic looking cinnamon brioche and passionfruit and chocolate cronuts. Check them out.IMG_3657

So what was that “good enough to bottle” bit. Well “bocal” means “jar” so go figure.

Vive la France

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Gusto Italiano: An Italian Italian

Gusto at Three Lamps has been one of our favourites on the strip for a long time. Good food, friendly service, nice ambience. It’s what I would call an Italian Italian – a more classic Italian restaurant – somehow more authentic that other offerings.

So in need of somewhere to go at that end of P Road it was an easy choice. We’d actually VOP’d and been for a drink at our friends Al and Juls’ house in St Mary’s Bay!! And we had our friends Barry & Jan with us – refugees from Wellington who also have a place in Herne Bay – more interlopers you see.

Now Gusto take bookings which is great so in we go at the appointed time to be greeted enthusiastically as always by Armando. Gosh it makes a difference when the maître d makes a bit of a fuss. That’s the second time in a week if you recall my Prego review.

Normally I’d be up for the BRUSCHETTE FANTASIA (Four flame grilled ciabatta slices rubbed with garlic, dressed with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper) but this night no one else wanted starters which can be a bit awkward if you’re the only one!! So sadly no bruschetta!

Armando delivering a complimentary garlic pizza bread went some way to allaying my disappointment.

I can sit for ages drooling over menus and this one was no exception but I set my mind early on on the SCALOPPINE AL PROFUMO DI BOSCO (Milk white veal scaloppini pan braised in butter with onions, white wine, fresh herbs. Served with button mushrooms and seasonal vegetable, topped with truffle pesto). Barry ordered the same.Veal

Deb had Risotto del Giorno (salmon risotto special)Risotto

and Al, Juls and Jan all had the RAVIOLI BURRO E SALVIA (Made in house fresh pasta pillow shapes, filled with mixed mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes and basil pesto, pan sautéed in a sage butter sauce finished with shaved parmesan).Ravioli

A fantastic array of authentic Italian fare and everyone declared their mains to be excellent.

So I said, as you do, what about dessert. Same response as the starter – no thanks. Damn I ran the very real risk of going without dessert as well. Fortunately there were a few coffees ordered so after tossing up between the TIRAMISU and the PANNA COTTA I sneaked in an order for the Dolce del Giorno – MIGNON CANNOLI – wafer pastry with fresh ricotta, candied fruit, chocolate, pistachio and a pinch of vanilla & cinnamon – exquisitecannoli

FOOTNOTE

Can’t keep away from Gusto. We were back there last Friday night to use up a voucher before it expired – yes I’m a grabonegroupontreatme user!! It was a three course meal which gave me a chance to have the BRUSCHETTE FANTASIA which I missed last time and for Deb to have her favourite CALAMARI IN PADELLA (Polenta coated calamari rings, pan sautéed in extra virgin olive oil with garlic and parsley accompanied with Gusto home-made mayonnaise).bruschette - Copy

For main I had the ARROSTO DI MAIALE (pork belly marinated with rosemary and white wine, seasoned and slow roasted, dressed with a sweet & sour tomato sauce, served with pumpkin mash & mesclun salad. TDF.pork

Deb had the POLLO ALLA GRAPPA (free range chicken breast braised in butter with onion, Italian grappa, cream & parsley and served with excellent seasonal vegetables. I had a little taste – loved it.chicken

Time for dessert – well we’d paid for it so…. back to the CANNOLI I’m afraid – excellent again and Deb’s PANNA COTTA hit the spot.panna

Another fantastic night at Gusto and the service was topnotch as always. Thank you Armando. And now he’s starred in Ponsonby News. Check out the great article about this authentic Italian restaurant. Love it.