A friend of mine vacationed in France this summer and she has been able to talk about little else since her return. I don\u2019t really mind, though, because a large portion of the conversa- tion is about food. Inevitably we decid- ed we needed to explore our options for French cuisine
in the Denver area. So this month it has been my pleasure to explore not one, but two fine restaurants, Le Central and Bistro Vendome.
Of course our minds went first to Le Central, the Affordable French Restaurant on the corner of 8th and Lincoln. I have dis-
cussed this in a past column, in glow- ing terms of course, focusing on the \u201caffordable\u201d component. They have a changing, balanced menu that offers everything from simple quiche to more extravagant constructions. At lunch you can enjoy a bowl of soup for $3 or splurge for a $7 crepe or $9 for seared salmon or a roasted duck-breast salad. I always love their sandwiches because all of the bread is made onsite. For a whopping $15 you can throw cau- tion to the wind and enjoy the Chef\u2019s Menu. Today that consisted of onion soup, cassoulet or bouillabaisse, and cr\u00e8me caramel for dessert.
Dinner will cost a bit more, $9 - $20 per entr\u00e9e, but that is still an amazing bargain. The dessert menu, a tantaliz- ing array of decadence, is never more than $5 per option, usually less. I can highly recommend the pain perdu for $3.95.
Le Central is located in what was probably an old duplex bungalow. The rooms are small and oddly configured, there is little in terms of a waiting area, and you should be prepared to know your neighbors well. None of this mat- ters, though. The food is great and the price is right, and that is the bottom line.
Our other site of exploration was Bistro Vendome on Larimer Square. This is definitely a pricier option, but the experience, and target audience, is decidedly different than Le Central. First of all, Bistro Vendome is locat- ed in a courtyard off of Larimer, so it is removed from noise and traffic. Their outdoor patio is one of the more authentic European al fresco dining environments in the Denver area, and their interior is highly formal and ele- gant. This is upper class dining for the foodie and the connoisseur who wants
t o a movie (although Vendome does offer a pre-theater fixed price menu for the discerning palette).
for lunch, their dinner menu is still on the affordable side. Starters
range from soup for $6 to Steak Tartare for $12.50. I would recommend the Crepe Vendome: roasted chicken tomato, olives and herbs, topped with sauce b\u00e9arnaise and a fried egg for $7.50.
distinctly more refined than you will find at Le Central. The complicated ingredient lists are included (necessary because the names are in French so you will need this translation). These are \u201cwhole bite\u201d entr\u00e9es that suggest you take the time to collect the perfect bite combination on your fork to fully appreciate the tastes. The Noix de Saint Jacques Grilles (grilled scallops), for instance, are rather bland on their own. Create a bite that includes a bit of everything on the plate: brioche, bacon, quail egg and shaved aspara- gus while truffle salad with smoked tomato saffron sauce ($21), however, and you will find your experience very satisfying.
The desserts are a bit more adven- turous at Bistro Vendome as well. At $6 each you can explore some extreme- ly creative and unique options. On the night of our visit we tried both the Black Mission Fig Crepe with lavender honey ice cream and the Chocolate Velvet Tart that ingeniously mixed the richness of chocolate and caramel with sea salt. This latter was so new to me, the flavor combination so fresh, I honestly found myself thinking about it for days.
I can easily recommend either of these establishments with no hesita- tion. While they both offer many tra- ditional French dishes, they are each very different in terms of audience and atmosphere. For people wanting something nicer for lunch, a casual and flavorful location for dinner, or a site for a first date or a (small) gath- ering of friends, Le Central is for you. But if you want more of a din- ing \u201cexperience,\u201d more formal, more romantic, and more adventurous to the palette you certainly want Bistro Vendome.
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I have a weakness for fish and chips. It does not extend to warm beer. So I was well chuffed when it revealed that a proper fish and chips shop was headed to our area. And likely, it had cold beer.
GB Fish and Chips will open another Denver-area store, across from Sloan\u2019s Lake with mission is to cook and serve the best fish & chips around, while offering other English specialties
such as Bangers & Mash, Pork Pies, Shepherd\u2019s Pies, and, of course, Pasties. Alex Stokeld started Get Battered in May 2007 after years of dreaming about a chippie in his hometown Denver. He spent most of his summers growing up in England visiting his massive family(His dad was one of sixteen chil- dren). Naturally he fell in love with fish & chips, especially in places like Brighton, Lowerstoft, and Whitby.
He realized that he couldn\u2019t spend $800 every time he had a craving for fish & chips, so he opened his own fish and chip shop in Denver. The
search for the perfect location at 1311 S. Broadway took a few months and as soon as the lease was signed, Alex picked up a hammer and went straight to work. Converting a computer shop into a restaurant was not a simple task but after four months a restaurant was built. Knowing its impossible to recre- ate the ambiance of Whitby, with the water, the fishing boats, the Abbey, and smell of salt, Alex decided to simply decorate the place with things he likes
\u2013 Football (soccer), Darts, Boxing, good music, Bob Marley, the Broncos. The same spirit is being infused at the new Sloan\u2019s location.
GB fish and chips also makes all of the English specialties in-house from scratch, stuffing their own Bangers.
Alex\u2019s father, Andrew, has been making Bangers (traditional English pork sausages) and meat pies ever since he came to the states in 1963. He and his brothers had a business
\u2013 Pickwick Pies \u2013 in the Bay Area until the mid-seventies supplying bars and restaurants with Bangers and pies. They are growing in popular- ity and GB will soon be offering more pies, such as Steak n Kidney, Chicken n Mushroom, Sausage Rolls, and might even consider doing something for those weird veggies out there.
Alex invites his neighbors to stop by and try the fish and other offerings. And Have a bottle of beer or glass of wine and enjoy a game of footie, rugby, gaelic football, etc\u2026 on the tellie.***
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