107 Grey St
Ph: 571 1480
French leader Napoleon Bonaparte once said that an army marches
on its stomach and if his Grande Armee in 1812 had had Maurice
Mourali on its invasion of Russia things may have gone a lot
better for him.
For Maurice is a consummate chef with a passion for food and
his customers. His enthusiasm and gastronomic abilities -
he is a two-star Michelin chef - make an evening out at Cafe
Versailles an experience that is hard to forget.
the moment you enter Cafe Versailles you can sense something
special and if it isn't the French style and ambience, or
the delightful aromas eminating from the kitchen, then it
is the owner himself who throws himself at you wanting to
know your life story within one breath.
who joins Maurice for dinner will feel special and once you
start sampling his astounding dishes you will quickly realise
that this restaurant sits on a level of its own.
is a mouth-watering selection of appetisers and entrees that
include French cheeses, garlic escargots, flambeed scallops,
salmon-stuffed john dory and duck galantine filled with pistachios
and a black-truffle puree.
mains include a classic coq-au-vin, entrecote of beef, seared
lamb cutlets and a Marseilles bouillabaisse with three different
fish fillets and king prawns.
began with a duck terrine created cuisson sous vide - a new
vacuum steaming concept in French cuisine that makes a very
big difference to taste and flavour - and it is one of the
most exciting creations to hit this palate in a while.
contains duck, pistachios, sultanas, truffles, mushrooms and
spinach surrounding succulent chicken breast.
amazing thing is that you can taste each and every ingredient.
This is no mash of items but a carefully prepared melange
of delicate flavours.
is amuse-bouche ... treating the mouth," Maurice says.
the rest of the plate does so with garlic cloves in armagnac,
home-made bread and smoked olives.
tartar is a favourite of this fellow and when in a French
restaurant a discreet inquiry is always made "do you?"
not on the menu, Maurice somehow found out and went to some
lengths at short notice to present the dish. The raw prime
beef was handsliced at the table into a melt-in-your-mouth
texture. It is mixed with table-top-made mayonnaise, capers
and mixed with raw egg.
tartar is divine but is not yet on the menu as both Maurice
and his wife Maurine, who sliced to perfection for five minutes,
are not sure of how it will go on the Kiwi palate. It was
Versailles's wine cellar hosts some excellent drops of French
wine and to go with our lamb loin encased in pastry is a very
fine Cotes du Rhone red, 2004 Domaine Alary Côtes du Rhône
La Gerbaude, which is rustic with an excellent structure of
fruits and peppery spice hints that complement the rich tarragon
dish also includes delicious courgettes a gratin and mushrooms
with a baked strawberry. The mix of tastes is sublime.
it is time for a bit of Maurice's enthusiasm as he explains
- while spooning lit liqueur on to the dish - that this flaming
of the dish was introduced to French cooking because King
Louis the XIV wanted people to take more time and slow down
while savouring food.
likes that as he wants his customers to delight in the flavours
of his preparations.
is my passion," he says, "my food and contact with my customers.
I want them to experience the joy of tasting the food, to
know about the food. It is most important to explain meals.
It is entertainment for the customers and I love their excitement."
that shows for throughout the evening you can see the master
chef wandering around the tables of Cafe Versailles talking
and interacting with people.
is everywhere and the King of the Tables is thrilled.
any sweet-toothed diner will be excited by massive Mt Blanc
that arrives for dessert. It's at least 10 centimetres thick
and the mixture of meringue, whipped cream and chestnut icecream
makes this the perfect way to finish off an excellent meal.
Versailles is not a restaurant to visit before going to the
movies. It is a place you go to savour the food on offer and
you must take your time to anticipate it and then enjoy it.
It is fair to say that I doubt if there is a more sophisticated
restaurant in Tauranga.
Versailles is all class and sets a benchmark in fine dining