This place was always recommended to people visiting from our U.S. Offices. I was curious why everyone speaks so highly of this busy bistro so it was on our list to visit.
From the outside, Le Select Bistro advertises itself with a hard-to-miss patio tucked away in the shade, surrounded by greens and flowers - it speaks of serenity on Wellington. Their signage is simple, clean and conservative, yet the kerned out serif font has a sense of class.
We didn't spend long in their interior but from what we gleaned, it was definitely a worthwhile atmosphere with plenty of rooms. As I made my exploration trip to their facilities, I got a full show of their elaborate cellar downstairs. Fortunately I got lost on the way there and discovered their solarium - in the back of the restaurant - an ideal place to get a feel of the outside without over-doing it.
Our waitress was in no mood for a chat, nor introduction when we inquired more about the place and their famous dishes. It was definitely quite bistro-like in the rushness of service but looking at their prices, I we expected a bit more.
Either way, during our quick Google search, we found out that La Select has been around for almost thirty years (since 1977) previously located at Queen St West and only recently made it to this Wellington location.
As we settled in, we got a closer look at their well-illustrated menu, which had an aged feel to it. The Brunch menu is what we had available at this time of the day. Seeing their large downstairs cellar, we were surprised and disappointed to notice that their menu had a "Champagne" section which included Cava and Cremant. If you are looking to work on your French dish pronunciation, Le Select is definitely the place to visit for your practice. Our waitress didn't leave a dish we pronounced un-corrected. We assumed she was French.
We asked her to recommend a couple of glasses of wine to go with our dishes which were their Confit de Canard and Braised Brisket Brioche Sandwich. The recommended wines, based on our preference of white or red, were a Rhone Blend Boger Sabon '13 and a Chablis Domain Laroche '13. We also asked for a side of their croissant to try.
As we waited, we noticed the almost solid shade on the patio - the large stripped awning and square umbrellas tightly fit together only letting through a few slits of sunlight. We sat on wooven chairs with metal tables, which didn't feel cheap but instead fit well this bistro feel. Our attention was stolen by their dark wooden service station cupboard outside, under the glass periphery of the building. It had so much charm to it, felt like an object from Beauty and the Beast.
We sipped on our glasses of wine. The Rhone wine was strong and plain, which Cheri mentioned might be covering up for something. The Chablis, however, had a mineral nose, and a pleasant aftertaste. It was also light on the palate.
A waiter came around with a basket of breads and took out two small buns for us using his thongs. They had the bread quality of a fresh baguette, not warm or crusty but soft and thick in texture. A side of butter followed. Local sparrows were definitely aware of the bread quality here - a swarm of these folks were always around to pick up the crumbs from the floor...or from your plate if you happen to leave your chair for a minute.
Not long after, our dishes made their way. The Confit de Canard was served in a deeper round plate, it consisted of a crispy duck leg with a side of green veggies under which was a lovely swirl of thick, dark brine. In the middle was a small square of potato gratin.
As we dug in, we were surprised to find out that the duck meat did not fall off the bone as we imagined and craved. As a matter of fact, the meat was a bit on the dry side. The crispy skin made up for this short-coming. Also, we thought we picked up on a unique sweet hint of thyme. The side of steamed veggies was a great addition - some bok choy, peas and radish. The potato gratin was a small, but flavorful part of the dish which added the bready thickness and slight cheese to make this dish a true masterpiece. Chablis was indeed a good match to balance out this heavier dish, loaded with flavor.
The Braised Brisket Brioche was served on a rectangular flat plate, consisted of a sandwich on one side and plenty of house-made, colourful vegetable crisps on the other as well as a small side of red kimchi. The presentation was right on for this gourmet dish with a sense of everyday. The brioche had the texture of a tea-biscuit, it felt quite buttery. The fatty brisket meat was very tender. It came with some sweet-spicy BBQ sauce a few thin slices of a Granny Smith apple, adding a subtle citrus kick to this dish. The small side of spicy kimchi, delivered a slight sour intrigue to our palates - balancing out the heavy meat. Lastly, the scattered chips of roots were fun to nibble on. The fried crisps were warm, salty and a bit oily. Unfortunately we did not feel that the glass of Rhone added to the dish. It was in search of something with a backbone. Sauternes could be an interesting choice here or maybe a fat, red Italian.
Lastly, the side croissant dish - we were expecting more from the croissant - we didn't think it was freshly baked that day, perhaps not even made at Le Select. It was lacking tradition and enthusiasm.
This lovely French spot is an ideal place for exploring adventures via your palate. The options are innovative and flavorful, the wine list is long and the ambiance is quite right. We would love to come back in a crisp fall day, soak up the sun and enjoy the colors in their solarium room.