I am part of a five-woman group that dines out once a month. We are a spirited bunch given to levity. I am the eldest, so I feel compelled to instill some decorum, but it’s a strain. We call ourselves “Women Who Eat Out.” Our selection this month was Bar Les Freres in Clayton, so I turned to their website to see what to expect. The opening sentence caught my eye: “A sense of romance and intimacy in the room is cut with a splash of nonchalance and sophistication.” My, my! I read on. I could “whisper conversations” or have “spirited banter” amid the “red walls, white marble topped tables and low lighting.” My heart fluttered. Would this be too much for my pacemaker to handle. And could I photograph the food without embarrassing the Women Who Eat Out or getting a steely eye from an accented waiter?
When I scrolled through the web menu, I found that my experience would be “slightly unconventional, yet utterly comfortable.” What a relief. I hoped the chef was as clever in his presentation as the website writer.
That evening we were seated in oversized chairs around three bistro tables in the front window. With four years of high school French under my belt, I hoped I’d be able to navigate the menu. There was no need to fear; most of the terms were recognizable, like escalloped, au gratin, and haricots vert.
Sometimes I Iook at a menu and think: Why am I here? Nothing looks especially appealing. Not so at Les Freres. I drooled as I read the variety of offerings, ranging from Lobster Bisque to Duck Confit, and thought: Why haven’t I come here sooner?
The staff of waiters knew their stuff and came across as truly interested in making your dining experience pleasant and memorable. I’ve not had such splendid service since I last dined at Tony’s. We started our evening of indulgence with some airy, cheese puffs, that the French call gougères.
We passed on the salads and went straight to the entrées, which turned out to be ample and flavorful. I had the Almond Encrusted Trout with Citrus Butter with Green Beans, others in the group had the Double Lamb Chop and Roasted Asparagus, and the Cassoulet–a hearty, slow cooked bean and sausage-based stew.
We shared a couple sides of Cauliflower Gratin, which was every bit as satisfying as mashed potatoes. When it came time for dessert, we picked the Chocolate Souffle and decided to split two portion among us—a routine that women think absolves them from dessert calories. Apparently everyone at a large party in the adjoining room wanted Chocolate Souffle, too. There was none left. When we showed our disappointment, the waiter brought us two Crème Brûlées, on the house.
As we left, three waiters bid us adieu and one graciously opened the front door. I don’t know whether this is standard practice at Les Freres or just reserved for women who eat out, but it was a nice touch.
Bar Les Freres, 7637 Wydown Blvd. Hours: Mon-Sat, 5p till close.