One of the most exciting developments for the restaurant is that the owners have made a considerable investment in olive trees. Imported several years ago from Sicily, these trees are now established in an olive grove close to the restaurant and the first harvest is eagerly awaited. Until it is possible to serve olive oil pressed from olives grown only on Gozo, the Ta’ Frenc ‘house’ olive oil is a very fine extra virgin olive oil specially imported from a single estate in Sicily.
Using fresh herbs from the well-stocked herb garden, as an alternative to coffee, Ta’ Frenc offers after dinner herbal infusions, including a wide range of mint varieties, lemon grass and lemon balm, with pure Gozo honey as a sweetener.
The herbs are also used in the kitchen to enhance the flavour of the dishes, which means that the chef can create simple, yet sophisticated sauces, without a heavy reliance on butter and cream. Chef Schembri makes his sauces with the cooking juices and enlivens them with the judicious flavouring of a herb, and perhaps a touch of wine or citrus juice. Any herb used must ‘play a part’ in the finished dish and because of that, great care is taken to choose the right herb for the dish; mint and fennel with fish, rosemary with rabbit, lavender with chocolate, lemon balm for the sorbet.
Most recently the restaurant has introduced another dish for the guéridon service, joining the flambé dishes, which first made the restaurant famous in the 80s. Ta’ Frenc is now one of the very few restaurants which have the skills to carry out this type of table-side service. Now guests can order, between two people, a roast chicken, not just any chicken, but a free-range bird, reared specially for the restaurant by a local farmer. The chicken is stuffed with herbs and aromatics, roasted and presented in two services. It is brought to your table in an elegant copper pan, where it is carved and the breast is served with seasonal vegetables. The legs are then brought out as a second service, on a bed of mixed salad leaves and herbs. This is dinner theatre at its very best.
Some things at Ta’ Frenc do not change. Maitre d’hôtel Joseph Tabone continues to welcome guests and discuss the menu with them in the bar, explaining the chef’s daily specials and offering suggestions about the wine, for Joseph is an experienced sommelier and has worked with some of the best throughout Europe. He heads a dedicated team, often augmented by staff from abroad, as both chefs and front of house staff are eager to come to work at Ta’ Frenc. And the process works in reverse; Ta’ Frenc staff spend time in some of the most famous kitchens in Europe such as the legendary Ritz in London, the multi-award winning country house hotel Chewton Glen in Hampshire and the three Michelin star Auberge de l’Ill in Alsace, whose sommelier, Serge Dubs, also Meilleur Sommelier du Monde, inaugurated the wine cellar at Ta’ Frenc.