Having flown the nest in recent times and swapped homely comforts for the rough of (an albeit very nice) flat with an old schoolmate, square meals have been harder to come by. So I thought it a nice turn of events to take my mother, the provider of so many fantastic square meals over the past 26 years, to share my first official lunch review for 'Weekend'.
As far as quality was concerned, La Mère Zou lived up to the occasion. Once we ordered, I really got into the relaxed vibe of this place. Everything about it is French: from the decor to the waitress enthusiastically explaining the intricacies of the dishes, to the French jazz playing in the background. It would be easy to sit back in La Mère Zou and imagine you are sitting in a bistro in the heart of Bordeaux.
Mum started with the pea soup from the specials board. This was simple but crammed with pea and mint flavours. It was a little thin for my taste, but got the thumbs up from her.
The starter of confit venison sausage was more my style. Two large chunks of lightly spiced venison were accompanied by a red-cabbage salad soaked in an aubergine purée and garnished with a star anise jus and a smattering of sweetened raisins.
This dish ticked all the gastronomic boxes for me. The venison was plentiful and spiced to perfection. The sweetness of the raisins made the dish, as they cut through the aubergine and star anise.
As it was my day off from training, I had enjoyed a lie-in and consequently a late breakfast. With this, I took a calculated risk to leave off my "hunger goggles". Therefore, it is a testament to the quality of the starters in La Mère Zou that one course down, my half-appetite was forgotten and I had my eyes firmly on the prize: the main course.
I went with the fish stew. This was mainly because I have rarely eaten a fish stew of note in a restaurant, so I knew this would be a good test. It came with three types of fish -- salmon, smoked cod and sea bream -- atop a tomato sauce with mussels, fennel, spinach and plenty of garlic.
The fish was cooked well and the skin was crispy. The dish came with citrus couscous; the sharp flavour gave it a real bite. The test complete and my plate empty, this fish stew passed with flying colours.
Mum's main was a lamb tagine from the specials' board -- a generous serving of lamb wallowing in a dark, rich sauce scented to perfection with cumin. This dish also came with a citrus couscous. If I was being picky, I would complain that the lamb tasted as if it had been cooked separately and hadn't picked up the great flavours the sauce provided. But all of the elements were excellent and complemented each other well.
To wash down her food, Mum selected a glass of the Cote de Gascogne, a chardonnay /sauvignon blanc mix. We were both impressed by the range of wines offered by the glass.
Generous portion sizes and late breakfasts aside, we couldn't resist the sound of the almond panna cotta for dessert. It was engulfed in a vanilla foam laced with fresh raspberries, strawberries and blueberries.
The bill for the four courses, a shared dessert, two large bottles of sparkling water, one glass of white and two espressos came to a very reasonable €61.95, excluding tip. At lunchtime, you will get three courses for €22 and two for €18.
Between the lunch menu and the specials board (most of the specials had a supplement, including the tagine at €2), there was plenty of choice. We had a very pleasant lunch and were blown away by a couple of the courses, the venison being my highlight.
The dinginess of the toilets and slightly over-eager service were details easily forgotten as soon as the first bite of food passed my lips. I will be back to sample the table d'hôte dinner menu at €35 for three courses.