If you've been lucky enough to sample chef Vincent Bonnin's cooking at Fez's Majestic; one of several French and Australian restaurants; on a luxury yacht in the Mediterranean, or at an exclusive Greek villa, then you'll know it stands out from the usual fare. He is renowned for his flair and creativity. Suzanna Clarke reports.
It was with delight that The View From Fez heard that Vincent had taken over the restaurant kitchen at Dar Roumana, a grand traditional guesthouse near Bab Guissa in the Fez Medina, owned by professional chef Jennifer Smith.
With Vincent's arrival, the dinner on offer has changed from a three course set menu to a choice of two or three entrees, two or three mains (with vegetarian option) and a dessert. In the French style, you can choose to have just two courses or all three.
Although new to the Dar Roumana, Vincent has already made the kitchen his own; whizzing around with concentration and economy of movement in a long-practised choreography. Regular ingredients are transformed into works of art with a stir here, a sculptured shape there and completed with a few deft flicks of his wrist.
Born in Le Mans, France, Vincent moved to the Fez Medina with his wife Vanessa two years ago after reading an article in the property section of a British newspaper. They plan to open their own restaurant when the restoration of their building is completed, likely to be in late in 2012.
"The structure is finished and now we need to do the interior," Vincent said. "Until then I'm glad to be at Dar Roumana. It gives me much more latitude to be creative."
As with most top contemporary chefs, Vincent prefers to work with local seasonal ingredients wherever possible.
Vincent has been a professional chef since the age of 17 and worked for Michelin-starred restaurants in the UK, The Gordelton Mill with Toby Hill and Fleur de Sel with Michel Perraud. In 2005, he worked for legendary French chef Paul Bocuse's right hand man, Philippe Mouchel, at The Brasserie in Melbourne, Australia. From there Vincent moved on to be head chef at several Australian restaurants. For the last year and a half he has worked at the Majestic in Fez's Ville Nouvelle. Vincent and Vanessa have also worked on yachts in the Caribbean and Mediterranean, and for the past three summers at a Greek villa where the well-heeled go to holiday. Jeremy Clarkson is a huge personal fan of Vincent's. At Dar Roumana, he said he has introduced a similar menu format and style of service.
|Salad of Poached Salmon and Cauliflower Puree with Salsa Verde|
On the menu last Friday night was an entree choice of Preserved Lemon and Courgette Risotto or a Salad of Poached Salmon and Cauliflower Puree with Salsa Verde; mains were Tiger Sole with Hazelnut Butter, Confit of Leek and Steamed Potatoes or Veal Ribeye with Fondante Potatoes, Green Beans and Peppercorn Sauce. Dessert was Caramelised Pineapple with Toffee Sauce and Vanilla Ice-cream.
|Tiger Sole with Hazelnut Butter, Confit of Leek and Steamed Potatoes|
So, the verdict?
My salmon salad entree was beautifully presented and the flavours melded without any particular one dominating. My companion's risotto was rich and creamy, but perfectly al dente; the preserved lemon giving it a distinctive tang.
With the mains, the nut butter gave the subtle taste of the tiger sole a lift, while the veal ribeye was cooked exactly to request and was deliciously tender. The peppercorn sauce accompanying this was tasty but not over-powering. In the dessert stakes, the house-made vanilla ice-cream ranked well above the usual. It was melt-in-the-mouth and a good contrast to the slightly tart fresh caramelised pineapple. Overall, the menu was a well-balanced selection, with the flavours matching the expectations given by the excellent presentation.
|Veal Ribeye with Fondante Potatoes, Green Beans and Peppercorn Sauce.|
Vincent @ Dar Roumana, 30 Derb el Amer, Zkak Roumane in the Fez Medina, is open from Tuesday-Saturday from 18:30 for aperitifs, dinner service commences at 19:30, with last orders at 21:00. No reservations are taken, unless for six people or more. Three courses costs 300 dhs per person and two courses costs 250 dhs per person, exclusive of beverages and service. Phone: +212 535 74 16 37 or +212 660 29 04 04 (mobile). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org