Review: La Bohème, Waterford
La Bohème in Waterford makes the most of top-notch Irish produce from local suppliers
Restaurant Title: La Bohème
Address: 2 George's Street, Waterford, Ireland
Phone: 051-875 645
Despite what the locals might have you believe, it is the port – and not the blaa or even selling expensive crystal to Americans – that has sustained the city of Waterford for the past 1,100 or so years.
Over that time kings, conquerors and traders have landed on the bank of the Suir that hems the city, shaping its fortunes. The Port of Waterford building is a striking Georgian four-storey looking towards Merchant’s Quay. And fittingly it is here, in the basement, that La Bohème offers a confluence of French cooking and Irish produce.
Opened in 2006 by French chef Eric Théze and his wife, Christine, the restaurant is far cosier than you’d expect as you descend its severe external steps. Inside, they’ve retained the original flagstone floors, vaulted ceilings and metre-thick walls. You pass a bar on the right and a small dining area on the left to reach the handsome dining room at the back. It is large and windowless – and initially quite dark – the only light comes from the kitchen and a scattering of lamps and candles.
The first thing to strike you is the noise. It’s a very busy Friday night – I spot just one empty table – and the enclosed room makes it hard to hear over the din of other diners. There’s music playing but we fail to hear it clearly enough to identify it. We guess Sinatra. Yes, let’s go with Sinatra.
The next thing to hit you is the size of the menu, which is so expansive – as is the wine list – you’d suffer quite an injury if you did get a wallop of it. There’s an à la carte, an early bird, a three-course €35 market menu, then desserts, ports, teas and coffees; it’s quite the opus.
One great addition, however, is the lengthy list of local producers on the first page, from fishermen to farmers to a community horticultural co-op that provides salad and vegetables.
There’s a strong seafood tilt – the specials are lobster and salmon and our first bite is an amuse bouche of chilled lobster bisque crème. It’s incredibly rich, the bisque having been bullied out by the cream.
More subtle – despite the name – is my dad’s blow-torched salmon, a slender pink fillet, lightly charred and served with slices of smoked salmon and a curry and coriander mousse. The mousse is also very rich – there’s no denying the heritage of the sauces in La Bohème – but a tangy horseradish cream saves it from being cloying.
My mother’s baked Triskel goat’s cheese crotin comes hidden under a warm fig compote. This is further hidden under a bunch of dark red frisée – or death lettuce as I’ve taken to calling it, so likely is a choking incident when you eat it. The cheese – made down the road in Portlaw by French woman Anna Leveque – is excellent. The figs are sweet and plentiful, holding on to enough chewiness to highlight the smooth creaminess of the Triskel.