The Frenchway Cafe is one of those places that gets talked about a lot, but somehow or other I never get around to writing up. About 15 months ago I paid a visit to interview Larissa Webster, the owner, as part of a post I wrote about a fundraiser called Stone Soup Luncheon. We ended up talking more about the French approach to food than we did about the event itself.
This made for an interesting conversation. It was made clear, in the course of talking to her, that having good food for children, was an French approach to food. School lunches in France were far better prepared, and with an emphasis on real food, that was sadly missing from my school lunch experiences.
While I was there she offered me a bowl of their vegetable soup. Before I left, I visited the pastry case and purchased a couple of pastries to take with me and enjoy back at the church office.
I don’t have the pictures to remind me of both the items I purchased, but I do most distinctly remember the miniature apple tart. Lots of apple and a great crust. This is a version of the Tarte Tatin. The video below shows one being prepared by Julia Child. If you have the time, I highly recommend that you watch the whole video, as it will also give you a great idea of why Julia Child was such a great teacher, and translator of French Cuisine for the North American audience.
Frenchway Cafe Hours
Monday — Saturday
7am — 5pm
Getting Back Around to Visiting Frenchway
Recently, St. Philip’s has had the addition of a family from Mozambique. They are an Anglican family and pretty much their first concern when they arrived in Winnipeg was to find an Anglican parish where they could worship. The family is quite large, and don’t speak any English. Their first language is Portuguese, their second is Swahili, and for the adults, their third is French. This is our contact point.
However, my French is only what I learned in high school, a long, long time ago. While my attempts to communicate In French do produce a measure of unintentional comedy, and get some of my more basic points across, there is still quite a gulf to cross.
So, I went looking to see if we could find some help to aid in communication as the parish and the family get to know each other better. I’ve had some aid from parishioners who have some French, and then managed to contact someone who could work more specifically with me. Our first meeting to discuss this help, was held at The Frenchway.
Being a morning meeting, it ended up being breakfast for me. Frenchway is located at the back of a parking lot, behind some buildings on Corydon Avenue. As you walk in, you discover a space that has quite a bit of natural lighting on the tables by the Lilac Street wall. The rest of the restaurant is a little darker as far as the lighting is concerned. This is in part due to the tables and chairs being of a dark wood colour. The pastry cabinet in the photo above is immediately to the right as you enter the door, and extends all the way to the kitchen entrance.
When I placed my order, I ordered a cafe au lait to drink. It turns out that the French in Frenchway doesn’t seem to extend to the beverages as I was told that yes, I could get a latte. I realize they are essentially the same drink, but was hoping to asked whether or not I wanted it in a bowl or mug. Still the actual beverage itself was quite good.
For the breakfast I stayed North American and ordered the bacon, eggs, and potatoes. I liked the potatoes coming in chunks. On the whole it was a rather average breakfast.
Late Lunch at Frenchway
One thing i sometimes fail to do is check what hours of operation really mean. I made an attempt to visit the Frenchway a few days ago, only to discover that although they close at five, their kitchen actually closes at four, and it was about ten after four when I showed up. So, my next visit to Frenchway had to be postponed for a few days.
Next time I managed to get there by around 3:30 so I was able to order a late lunch. I decided I would keep things fairly simple with soup, and savoury crepes. The soup was a Japanese mushroom, and decided to keep with the mushroom theme and order the Mushroom and Chevre crepe that came with a balsamic glaze. With it being rather warm out, I decided to go with something cool to drink, and chose a glass of Pinot Grigot. I’m not a huge drinker of white wine, but this one ended up being quite a good choice.
I seated myself at a corner table that combined the best of the light from the Lilac windows, without any of the heat that light on the windows would generate.
Both the soup and crepes came at the same time. The soup had a deep, rich broth that was enjoyable to the last spoonful. I don’t know about you, but I find that sometimes once the substance of the soup is dispatched with, it feels like a bit of work to finish off the broth. Not so in this case. Every spoonful was very good. On top of that there were lots of meaty, Japanese mushrooms in the broth.
When I ordered my crepes, I didn’t look to closely at the description instead focusing on the title. I noticed after ordering that the description included the words “seasonal vegetable hash.” It made me wondered exactly what I would be getting. It runs out that it was largely sweet potatoes, but with bits of mushroom, red pepper, and onion. The most accurate part of the description is the word stuffed.
While the crepes themselves were substantial, the filling was even more so. The crepes were thin and fresh. On the second crepe, there was so much filling that by the time I had finished the crepe there was still plenty of filling on my plate. As for the filling, I appreciated that while there was not crunch to the sweet potatoes they were still reasonably firm.
The service at Frenchway is good. As with the food the pace is leisurely, but still efficient. There was good follow up on my order, and they leave a bottle of water at the table, so there is no need to get refills during the meal. At the same time I was able to enjoy meal at a leisurely pace. There are few items that I would like to try, especially since the most French of the meals are offered as specials, and so I will likely be back again to try some of them.