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Oui, Café Provençal now offers business lunch |

Food and Leisure

Oui, Café Provençal now offers business lunch

- Joseph Cortes -
Metro Manila gourmets are a fickle lot. Their appetites are dictated by what’s new and what’s fashionable. Once word gets out about the latest hot spot in town, they troop to it and have their fill until the next restaurant comes along.

That’s why some restaurants are like old friends. They are always there when you need them. When the fad dies down, diners can always be sure that good restaurants, specializing in classic fare, will always be there.

Café Provençal is an old friend. Since it opened in 2000, it has been offering traditional French cuisine with an emphasis on Provençal cooking. Restaurants have come and gone, but trust this player to stay in the game and to offer diners fine dining service in a cozy ambience.

At Café Provençal, emphasis is on excellent food at reasonable prices. Despite the economic crisis, GM Laurent Lamasuta says they have no plans of arbitrarily raising their prices because this would be unfair to their customers.

"We try to keep our profit margins low, because it would be unwise to raise prices at this point in time. We wouldn’t want to lose our customers," Lamasuta confesses.

When the restaurant opened, it wanted to correct the misconception that French food is only available at five-star hotels. Its emphasis on Provençal cooking also means that its servings are generous, unlike the meager portions of nouvelle French cuisine.

Provençal cooking is distinct from the rest of France. The region’s proximity to the Mediterranean sea and Italy brings with it a lot of spices and seafood. With its mountainous countryside, very little milk is used in the cooking in this area, but goat cheese is quite popular. Garlic, olive oil and olives are staples, while herbs add a unique flavor to the cooking. The more popular herbs include rosemary, sage, oregano, marjoram, thyme, basil and savory. With this variety of fresh ingredients, diners get fresh light French flavors, not heavy with the sauces most people ascribe to French cooking.

The restaurant now has a menu with more than 100 items. Lamasuta says they were able to compile such a big menu because their regular clients are always looking for something new.

"If they come here three or four times a week, after a time they will want something new," he says. "We are attentive to what our customers want. If they want something that’s not on the menu, if we have the ingredients for that dish, then we can do it for them."

The clientele at Café Provençal is wide-ranging. At its branch at the SM Mega Strip, Lamasuta says they get both old and young crowds, as well as families on weekends. The menu is versatile enough to satisfy diverse whims.

"The older guests would order a fondue, goose liver and scallops, while the younger crowd would go for pizza, pasta and a shared salad. There’s also a middle crowd that crosses over to the more expensive items when they dine out," he explains.

The interiors of Café Provençal’s Mega Strip branch are cozy. Walls are painted a warm yellow, while chandeliers add an Old World touch. Tables are arranged spaciously, so that there is room for movement. There is also a function room that can seat 12 people.

The restaurant now serves rice dishes, like paella, because a number of diners are always looking for rice. There is an open pasta bar, where diners can choose the pasta and sauce they want, which will be cooked by the chef, and an open pizza bar, where diners can choose the sauce and toppings they want for their pizza. There is also a grill selection, available on a per weight basis, served with a variety of sidings and sauces and cooked according to a guest’s desire.

Also available is business lunch that is complete with appetizer and dessert.

"It’s a quick lunch, and many people were looking for that," he says. "Sometimes, when they come here for lunch, they no longer want to look at the menu. It’s a full meal and, at P175, it’s a reasonable price."

The two-week promotion offers a number of dishes that are not on the menu. Since the promo was started a few months ago, Café Provençal chef Nick Anderson has been able to introduce new dishes and innovate on traditional ones. He has offered promotions on sizzling items, ravioli, Greek dishes, sandwiches, lamb and beef specials.

The restaurant has also set up a catering service that can handle as many as 300 guests per party. Café Provençal has some 50 menus to choose from, offering a variety of Filipino and international dishes. Prices range from P160 to P1,000 per person.
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Café Provençal has branches at The Mega Strip, SM Megamall, with tel. nos. 638-6420 and fax 687-0259, and at the second level, Shangri-La Plaza Mall, with tel. nos. 631-8046 and fax 631-8049.

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