Bistro Le Clochard: The Revamp

Ask the right person and they’ll tell you that Bistro Le Clochard used to be a fancy place, but at a certain point the quality didn’t match up to the price. Lately the place has undergone some noticeable changes. Though we were scarred by past experiences and dwindling funds, we decided to risk it and enter.

From the outside, the place looks the same as twenty years ago, but step inside and former regulars will notice a big change in the vibe. The foyer is still dark, however the kind you would find in an auberge somewhere in the Swiss Alps instead of the former gloomy vibe. The shiny piano gives it a sophisticated touch, while the candles on the low tables give the place a cozy feel. The main dining area isn’t too appealing, but the terrace makes up for it. Light, airy, stunning views of Punda and a front row seat to harbour activities.

The service is excellent. There is simply no other way to describe it. Like a small ant army, the waiters poured sparkling water and wine, served the dishes and cleared the table. They were seen, but almost never heard. Our glasses were always full, dishes were served in a timely manner and the table was cleared as soon as we finished a dish. We could engage in lively conversation, without being constantly interrupted by the waiter demanding our attention or waiting for instructions. We never once had to beg the waiter for service. We sat there for hours and they waited patiently (and almost invisibly) until we were ready to settle the bill and leave at our leisure.

The food was great too. Haute cuisine, without the fancy schmancy, if you know what we mean. The amuse-bouche wasn’t the usual jelly-like substance most fancy restaurants pass off as cold soup, but tiny deep fried mussels with a creamy mustard sauce and a salad of cherry tomatoes and greens. Our bouches were instantly amused.

We started with the tuna tartar. This version was delectable, because it was served on a bed of thinly sliced veal and drizzled with artichoke cream. Although the cherry tomato wedges (so fresh they were bursting with flavour) overpowered the dish, we would definitely recommend it as a starter. Although they no longer have some of our fave main courses (Entrecote Café de Paris and the hot honey glazed shrimp appetizer anyone?!) on the menu, there were alternatives worth ordering. If you want more bang for your buck, order the seafood risotto appetizer as a main course. Although the risotto reminded us more of a paella then what you would eat at a tenuta in Tuscany, the amount of seafood served with it makes it worthwhile. Think several types of fish (salmon, tuna and white fish), shrimp and scallops on a heap of creamy rice.

The sirloin steak was cooked almost right (note to all chefs out there: when we order medium rare, we want to see red in the middle!), the herb topping was interesting and paired well with the vegetables and juicy potatoes. However, as steak lovers we expected a better tasting steak for the asking price. Perhaps we romanticised the former glory days – Entrecote Café de Paris, with the butter wedge just melting as it is served- but we would still recommend adjusting the quality of the steak or the price. All was well, though, when at the end of the evening the bill still had the Café de Paris on it.

Bring back the Café de Paris and the hot shrimp appetizer of the days of yonder and keep up the service. We’ll become regulars again for sure!

Food: 8- improve on the steak or lower the price, please.

Location: 9- front row seat to everything happening in the harbour

Ambiance: 7- add some more ambient light on the deck and in the inside dining hall

Service: 9- unprecedented on the island; take note, other restaurants!