Chez Pierre

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Fine French dining without the price tag. That’s how Chez Pierre can be summarised in a few words, although the experience is so much more than that. White linen, sparkling glassware and vases of fresh orchids on each table create the old world ambience without the stuffiness.

Set in large but tasteful surroundings complete with a separate bar area and private dining room, this establishment provided our group with a pleasant evening of royal French fare for the not-so-princely sum of $59.90 each. The service was attentive and professional, complete with charming French accents. We were seated, napkins placed in laps, and drink orders taken. Wine by the glass was reasonably priced and I enjoyed my tipple of NZ Nautilus Estate Sauvignon Blanc ($11) with my meal.

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We’d chosen to dine with the C’est Bon regional menu that focusses on a different area of France every week.

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Our week featured Nice, so fish and seafood were the stars.  We started with an Amuse Bouche of cumin-spiced pumpkin soup; a perfect little winter warmer.

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A basket of crusty bread with salted French butter had been placed on the table, and it was incredibly tempting to devour piece after piece of this. If you’ve been to France you’ll know that the French bake the most amazing bread and make the tastiest butter imaginable, and Chez Pierre’s versions were equally good. This is always the dilemma when served amazing bread in restaurants – you’re tempted to keep eating, but you fill up and can’t finish your other courses. A bit pointless  unless you just go to eat bread and soup.

Our entree was soupe aux fruits de mer; seafood chowder full of chunky fresh pieces of fish, mussels and seafood. This dish was rich, creamy and absolutely delectable.

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A fruity mango sorbet was served between courses. This palate cleanser was the perfect segue from entree to main.

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Our main course of fresh Atlantic salmon steak served on a bed of fettuccine with a beurre blanc sauce, was a beautiful piece of fish. Although the salmon was cooked a tad more than I prefer, the combination of fresh fettucine with capers, olives and a creamy sauce was a notch above very good. The French take their sauces seriously and these can make or break a dish.  This lush sauce was flavoured with a hint of tarragon, and was perfect for the salmon.

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At this point I was wondering how I was going to fit in dessert. It may not seem like much, but the entree and main were substantial and I was thankful I wasn’t wearing anything with a snug waistband. But one has to soldier on, right?  Termed Creme Catalan on the menu, it was essentially a creme brûlée, flavoured with orange and cinnamon. The custard was smooth and the top had the perfect ratio of crispy burnt caramel, but it was such a huge serve that I could barely finish half.

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Chez Pierre was a pleasant dining experience with quality food and excellent service. They even have a parking attendant who helps you manoeuvre your car into their little car park when you arrive. It’s the little touches that often determine how much value the owners place in their customers, and in this case it’s obvious the customer is king. If you choose a night with the C’est Bon dinner, you won’t have to part with a fortune to enjoy a quality meal. You could also try their three course business lunch for $45 or for those with bigger appetites, their 8 course degustation dinner.

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