Pleasant peasant French eatery's largely unchanged menu features unpretentious home-cooking

This Exchange District venue has seen some ups and downs since it opened as Oui Bistro in 2007 and then rebranded as Peasant Cookery in 2010. Passersby will have noticed the fresh fire engine-red paint on the exterior, a change matched inside with new chef Melissa Makarenko.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 02/10/2019 (1156 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

This Exchange District venue has seen some ups and downs since it opened as Oui Bistro in 2007 and then rebranded as Peasant Cookery in 2010. Passersby will have noticed the fresh fire engine-red paint on the exterior, a change matched inside with new chef Melissa Makarenko.

Restaurant review

Peasant Cookery
283 Bannatyne Ave.
204-989-7700; peasantcookery.ca

Peasant Cookery
283 Bannatyne Ave.
204-989-7700; peasantcookery.ca

Go for: a modern take on French home-cooking
Best bet: the genius roast chicken
Appetizers: $14; entrees: $20-$28

Monday-Thursday: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday: 11:30 a.m.- 5 p.m.; Saturday: 5-11 p.m.; Sunday: 5-9 p.m.
Noise level: high
Wheelchair accessible: yes
Licensed: yes, with a full wine, craft beer and house cocktail menu

Specials: Yes, including fan-favourite buck-a-shuck oyster nights on Wednesdays and 50 per cent off charcuterie on Mondays

★★★1/2 out of five

STAR POWER

★★★★★ Excellent
★★★★ Very Good
★★★ Good
★★ Mediocre
★ Substandard
No stars Not recommended

Recent visits find the cooking sometimes uneven but often very good, especially when it plays to the strengths of the menu (which is largely unchanged), featuring unpretentious French home-cooking with local ingredients and a few contemporary twists.

Take the classic onion soup. The melty cheese is there, all right, but it’s the fundamentals that matter, like the properly deep and dark but still mellow broth that relies on veal stock and the low and slow caramelization of the onions.

The pan-fried chicken livers, cooked just to doneness and still tender, are also good, offset by a robust sauce of tomato and red wine. (More toast, though, please.)

Oysters are a specialty. (Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press)

Butter lettuce salad is extremely simple and beautifully prepared, the pale, delicate greens just kissed with some herb-flecked, lightened-up Green Goddess dressing.

The roast chicken is a brilliantly concise take on a fall fowl supper. The white meat is moist with a burnished maple-syrup skin, and the dark meat is chopped up and cooked into a humble hash with root vegetables. The chicken is accompanied by a savoury egg-rich bread pudding with leeks and herby autumnal seasoning, along with a tart cranberry gastrique that includes individual berries right on the point of popping.

Chorizo meatballs made with Manitoba pork are another standout, served with pools of a warming paprika-spiked tomato sauce, bright salsa verde and aioli, everything pulling together. The accompanying patatas bravas could have been crisper.

The new Chef, Melissa Makarenko. (Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press)

Bison meatloaf is tasty but a little dry and aggressively dense. The fixings were good, though, including upscale mushroom gravy, smooth and garlicky mashed potatoes and braised red cabbage. Rabbit ragout is also tasty but slightly stodgy, needing more sauce for the pappardelle.

The dessert menu includes crème brulee and chocolate pot de crème, both unfussy, well executed versions of French classics.

The maple tart is one of those deceptively flat and modest French sweets, packing a lot of creamy intensity into a lovely filling. Unfortunately, the shortbread crust, while buttery, was a bit tough. Deconstructed chevre cheesecake was almost great. The cheesecake base, served in a dish like a mousse, is rich but light with the goat cheese adding tang, and the tender shortbread cookies work well in place of a crumb crust. But the addition of sour cherry sorbet was puzzling — in and of itself just fine, but not really texturally connected to its friends.

The roast chicken is a brilliantly concise take on a fall fowl supper. (Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press)

Service was charming but lagged midway, as if more people were needed on the floor. Decor skews rustic-chic but is a bit arbitrary and tired for a venue with these prices, and the high-ceilinged main dining room can be very loud. At a table of five, we had trouble conversing.

Oh, and one small, irksome issue that’s not limited to Peasant Cookery. Yes, I get things are meant to feel informal and modern, but if I’m paying more than $20 for my entrée, I want a darn cloth napkin.

alison.gillmor@freepress.mb.ca

Charcuterie board. (Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press)

Chocolate pot de crème, served with fresh biscotti. (Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press)
Beet salad (Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press)
Alison Gillmor

Alison Gillmor
Writer

Studying at the University of Winnipeg and later Toronto’s York University, Alison Gillmor planned to become an art historian. She ended up catching the journalism bug when she started as visual arts reviewer at the Winnipeg Free Press in 1992.

History

Updated on Wednesday, October 2, 2019 10:58 PM CDT: Fixes subhead

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