REVIEW: CAFÉ DU SOLEIL
The chilly winter sun cascaded down on us as we approached the steel bridge that lead us over the Great Stour. Appearing silent and serene, we wondered if anyone was actually inside. The old brick walls, housing what would once have been a wool store, welcomed us with their warm glow and slightly-weathered masonry finish.
On entering, we were greeted by tasteful décor of the cosiest kind, which worked well to retain the eatery’s sophistication and restaurant ‘vibe’. A pillar candle on every table, and a sparkling Christmas tree smiling at us on entry, I quickly felt at home. Friendly waiters led us to our table, situated in the centre of the convivial atmosphere; to our side a tropical plant’s leaves imitated the flames of the roaring pizza oven at the far end of the room, which had a curvilinear shape, reminding me of the most subtly interpretive handcrafted pottery.
The staff were particularly attentive and just as charming as the architecture itself.
The food prices are more suited to a special event; the perfect place for a birthday lunch, especially if your family comes to visit for a day and treats you. From 12pm to 6.30pm daily, a set menu of two courses for just under £15 is an affordable option.
The quality of the food itself was sublime, especially if you have been living off self-afflicted rations and Essentials popcorn for weeks. On top of that, the menu incorporates a mixture of cultures, and is always seasonal. Whether you prefer moules frites, wood-fired margarita pizza, or a ribeye steak, all palettes and tastes are accounted for.
My starter, the crispy calamari salad, was a leaning tower of squid veiled in a piquant chili vinaigrette, and could be considered big enough to be a light lunch in itself. Followed by the tender duck confit with red wine sauce, it made for an above-average lunch, bursting with flavour and iron.
If you are looking for a restaurant to celebrate a birthday or celebration, I could not recommend this one more. Most impressive was the staff’s discreet approach to that of the cake-parade. No singing, no unnecessary attention, and no cringe-worthy rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’, just a cake laid in front of you graciously with uniform candles placed on top. The dancing, wavering candle lights did all the singing.
All-in-all, the friendly atmosphere was the most noticeable and unique feature of the restaurant, and elevated the afternoon from a ‘lunch-out’ to a heart-warmingly comfortable experience.