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Duck french-style

Freda Appelbaum calls Le Canard her passion. No surprise. At the age of 80, she’s still running this famous eaterie, as she has for the past 26 years.

As you arrive, the lights glitter invitingly. The setting is white Mediterranean with a touch of Sandton sophistication. The atmosphere is relaxed, warm, with a tinge of excitement. Inside, white tables glitter with perfectly polished silver. Fresh flowers brighten the tables, fairy lights dance on the walls.

This is Le Canard. You’re about to embark on a culinary adventure, complete with great food, stunning wine and the very best company. Each dish arrives covered with a silver dome. With pomp and ceremony, the waiters lift everybody’s lid simultaneously to reveal a magnificent plate of food underneath. There are exclamations of delight, surprise, sheer glee.

Every course is a magical experience. Extra courses are added – another Le Canard signature – tiny nibbles while you order from the menu, some cold soup before your starter arrives, sorbet in between courses, hand-made chocolates with coffee.

Freda Appelbaum leaves nothing to the imagination. She is the hostess, the chef, the star. The dishes have all been prepared with her inimitable flair and attention to detail. She insists on serving fine food. And what you get on your plate is the finest imaginable. Which is why Le Canard and its owner have won so many awards, including an annual spot on the American Express top 10 deluxe restaurants list.

Freda has been running this famous restaurant since 1987. She started Le Canard because she had semi-retired and was going crazy. She’d been a dress designer, and then ran a head-hunting business with her daughter Karen. In her mid-fifties she decided to follow her passion for food, and her flair for cooking, and so Le Canard was born.

Food has always been a part of Freda’s life. She’s been cooking since the age of 12, and then married a Frenchman, which enabled her to sample French cuisine at its best. “We visited Henry’s parents in France every December,” she recalls. “In France they don’t have restaurateurs; only good chefs. I sampled the food of many of those good chefs.”

Freda still can’t speak French, but she did master the art of French cooking. “I can take out any French chef,” she says in a matter-of-fact tone. “There’s a perception that French cooking is different from any other cuisine. French cooking is fine food. The French love food. The only real difference is that true French cooking uses a lot of offal and cream. But these days we’ve pared it down and modernised the food, and we don’t use as much cream anymore.”
True, the dishes aren’t too rich. Neither are they as expensive as we have been led to believe. Freda understands the need to serve fabulous fare without a hefty price tag. To her, the guests who return time and again are more important than the big names that have graced her tables. And there have been many of those, including prime ministers (yes, Madiba has eaten there, as has Bill Gates, and celebrities like Nancy Rockerfeller and Sir Peter Ustinov). And there are many more, whose pictures you will see on the walls in the entrance.

Although the menu changes regularly to include seasonable fare, some things never change. Like Le Canard’s superb choice of duck with four different sauces (the one with fresh orange, ginger and Grand Marnier is the most popular). And the Lobster Bisque. All those awards on the walls have been won for good reason. The food is divine.

Whether you dine a deux, with a party or join one of Freda’s famed soirees, you’re in for a night to remember. Exclusive, yes. Expensive, no. Eventful. We guarantee it.

As of the end of August, Freda Applebaum resumed her popular monthly soirees at Le Canard. These evenings involve sublime pairings of only the very best food and wine with music performed by masters in their fields. The combination of delectable food with wine is a common one, but the addition of music to the mix created an unmatched combination. For their first Soiree Culinaire, violinist Miroslav Chakaryan paired with Jacob Swart on the piano, and Denira Coleman joined them for a rendition of La Vie en Rose that left the diners speechless.

And the food? Freda’s reputation precedes her and each of the eight courses was as delectable as the last. The event was booked out within days, so if you’re keen to attend one of these memorable evenings, make sure to book well in advance.

Le Canard, 163 Rivonia Road, Morningside. Tel: (011) 884 4597, www.lecanard.co.za

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