Chez Sophie is a surprising find in the heart of old St. Boniface on Avenue de la Cathedrale. The building is fairly nondescript from the outside except for the paint colour, which is a vivid blue but its quaint interior is immediately appealing and inviting. There are boudoir lamps perched on every windowsill and chandeliers and dried hydrangea adorning the walls.
My friend and I arrived at just about the same time as a very large group of French Immersion students from St. Boniface College. They did an excellent job of practicing their second language because sometimes we had a challenge hearing our own conversation over the din. But this did not dissuade us from enjoying a delightful lunch.
As soon as we sat down, a beautiful frosty bottle of water was placed in front of us. When that was emptied, it was replaced with another, without us having to ask — a very welcome touch on a hot and muggy day (there is apparently no air conditioning in the bistro.) We were also automatically served two petit pains, hot from the open hearth.
I had spotted the "Salade Noir" when doing some pre-research for our visit and kept thinking about it until it was time for my first taste. Delicate greens are tossed with salty Parmesan, balsamic dressing and shaved dark chocolate! Oh my, if only it hadn’t been 11:30 in the morning, we would have enhanced it with a glass of French red wine.
We split the salad and went on to choose an entrée to share. I was tempted to order the white-sauced Alsatian pizza which I have yet to sample, but which looked amazingly good when they whisked by us en route to other tables. But we got totally side tracked by the extensive crepe and quiche specials and opted for the smoked salmon and camembert quiche.
This was cheerfully split into two portions, which was very much appreciated (and something not all restaurants are inclined to do without adding a charge). All of the lunch specials are served with a bowl of homemade soup. When we inquired how the tomato soup that day was made, the Chef replied: "with tomatoes, balsamic and lots of love".
The special also came with more tossed greens and red onion in a Dijon dressing. The additional greens were welcome, as even a shared quiche slice was very rich. But one of the many delightful aspects of French cooking is that you only need to savour one or two satisfying bites to feel well-fed.
I attempted to chat with Chef Stephane as I was departing but our server had to act as an interpreter because my French is so poor. Nevertheless, I found this language challenge absolutely delightful in the heart of my home city.
Kathryne Grisim’s foodmusings.ca blog was named best local blog in Uptown Magazine’s Best of Winnipeg readers’ poll