Opened in 2013 by experienced host Roy Bolton (originally of the Bushnmills Inn), this little slice of rural France is easy to miss from the street, as it looks like a shop (which it also is) but, once inside, it's unique.
The shop - which sells French kitchen items, more stylish than practical - acts as the reception area for the restaurant, which has two distince eating areas, the Café with modern high backed circular booths, the other a rural French Garden Room with a terrace, big provencal stone fireplace and sofas and tables casually placed.
Although mainly a daytime place (Afternoon Tea would be treat here), dinner is served in the Café on several evenings and the Garden Room is available for busy times and for group bookings. Some food is imported from France, for that authentic touch, but, in true French fashion, the Boltons are proud to showcase the best of their local artisan suppliers, both through a 'Local Heroes' section in their Gourmet Grocers and intherestaurant, which they supply with some of their own home grown herbs and some of the vegetables
Chef Stella Bolton's food is delicious and menus are skilfully designed to complement the French ambience - think Croque Monsieur and French Toast Croissants with Gruyere cheese, bacon, honey and fried egg in the morning, or for a more local touch, freshly baked scones, which are made with a different seasonal flavour each morning.
Lunchtime brings Gourmet Grocers sharing platters, Tarte flambée (a speciality of the Alsace region), and the likes of Toulouse sausage with mash and baked camembert with crusty French bread.
On the evenings when dinner is served, menus include popular sharing platters with tapas style options as starters and a signature main dish such as a Seafood Gratin featuring smoke roasted salmon from The North Coast Smokehouse in Ballycastle, or classics like boeuf Bourguignon in the evening - yet there's plenty of familiar fare to please the local palate too, including a good 10oz sirloin with all the trimmings.
The drinks menu is equally interesting, with seven Old and New World wines offered by the glass or carafe - and, for every South African wine purchased, a donation goes to StreetSmartSA, charity supporting the street children of South Africa. Local beer and cider producers feature too, e.g. Glens of Antrim, Hilden Brewery and McIvors Cider, and also cocktails; Ma Cool's Shake is a firm favourite, featuring Bushmills whiskey (what else?) and cream, and the signature cocktail is a lavender infused Martini...
Combining a lovely mixture of cosy (open fires) and summery (lavender fringed garden), The French Rooms covers all bases weather-wise - and it is so much more than just a place to eat.
It's a very pleasing concept, and something completely different for the area - still easily the most elegant and stylish restaurant on the Causeway Coast, and affordable too.
***Self-catering accommodation has also been available since early 2017: Continuing the French theme 'Maison' offers 2 high-spec self-catering suites and oodles of charm. Overlooking the River Bush, they have an open plan kitchen/living area with a real fire, separaet bath and shower and lots of lovely stuff. Self catering, but can also have breakfast at The French Rooms, of course.