Following his success over the years at Le Gallois, Boof and Pier 64, Cardiff restaurateur Francis Dupuy’s latest endeavour is an instant hit and confirms Canton as the city’s dining destination du jour.
I’d already visited twice - and enjoyed two fabulous meals - before I was challenged to cast my critical eye on Chez Francis. Unlike his previous forays, that ran the gastronomic gamut from modern Welsh haute cuisine to fine French fast-food, we get a far more personal glimpse here into Dupuy’s own home-cooked family favourites, along with a comforting take on classic French country fare.
The restaurant’s location is a gift in itself, as it shares the same building as The Purple Poppadom at the city-centre end of Cowbridge Road East. The Beti Biggs interior design creates a warm environment, reminiscent of bistros from Paris to Provence. Having previously enjoyed a first-class Frenchonion soup followed by an excellent coq au vin, I was happy for Francis to suggest his personal favourites. Whilst waiting, we savoured a bottle of Bellerose, a light and delightfully hoppy blonde ale from northern France. And as both house wines come highly recommended, we plumped for a glass or two of the Baron de Baussac Carignan - a rich and velvety autumnal red.
We started with a plate of the Burgundy snails, sauteed in garlic, parsley and shallots, that ensured a pleasant depth and piquancy. The rich and creamy scallops Coquilles St Jacques was a welcome reminder of a classic Seventies dish, that was a favourite of my parents back in the day. Maman Dupuy’s Choux Farci with boulangere potatoes was an over-familiar, almost hated dish for our host when he was a child; however, he now considers it his ultimate comfort food. Indeed, the thyme-scented sausage meat encased in new-season cabbage leaves was divine, and gave the Confit of Duck, served with haricot beans, a delectable run for its money.
We finished on a high with an exquisite apple tart tatin - the best of all three visits to Chez Francis so far. I’ll definitely return for hearty French provincial cooking - perfect at this time of year.
185 Cowbridge Road East
Cardiff CF11 9AJ
Tel: 029 2022 4959