Monday, July 23, 2012

Damn. Where will we go for dinner now?

Wendy and Jim Campbell served their last dinner on Saturday night. Their regular customers – and there were quite a few of them – will be bereft.
Wendy and Jim ran The French Bistro in Martinborough. The genial Jim was the front-of-house man and Wendy did the cooking (and in the early days, before they could afford staff, the washing-up too).

The French Bistro won the Cuisine award for best regional casual dining restaurant in 2008 and once earned the rare distinction of a glowing mention in the New York Times by the late R W Apple Jr, an associate editor of the paper and noted traveller and bob vivant.
As the name implies, The French Bistro served French-inspired cuisine based on local, seasonal produce. The menu, elegantly hand-written by Jim, changed constantly, depending on what was fresh.

The food was exemplary. Some of the most enjoyable dinners my wife and I have had were eaten there. But after 10 years of hard work, Wendy and Jim (that’s their son John on TV3) have decided it’s time to ease off.
They closed without fuss or fanfare. They will be missed not just by their many loyal supporters in the Wairarapa but also by weekenders from Wellington for whom dinner at The French Bistro was the high point of a visit to Martinborough.


Kiwiwit said...

I wonder whether Jim's behaviour has driven them out of business.

The only time I ever tried to get into the French Bistro, Jim was rude and dismissive because they were full that night (and because I think he was drunk). We knew it was popular and as we were in Martinborough for a couple of days, we were happy to book for the following night, but Jim did not give us to the chance.

I've heard lot of similar stories such as this review from MenuMania, "Even before entering I was accosted by the M/D who very rudely made our intended visit very ugly," and this one from DineOut, "the rather unfriendly maitre'd, refused to seat us because we were 12 minutes late...[despite there being] two available tables."

The upside of our experience with Jim is that we discovered Tirohana Estate and Cornucopia at Aylstone, both of which are superb and which have benefited from repeated visits and recommendations from us ever since.

Karl du Fresne said...

I too have read negative reviews of The French Bistro, along with many glowing ones. One thing I've noted about review sites, both here and overseas, is that they attract people who seem determined to find fault with everything and derive a perverse satisfaction from painstakingly itemising all the ways in which an establishment (whether it's a restaurant, hotel, B&B or whatever) has failed to match their exacting expectations. You note yourself that the restaurant was fully booked. Many of the complaints I've read give the impression of having been written in a fit of pique because someone couldn't get in. Not a bad problem for a restaurant to have.