Christine and Eric Thèze’s elegant restaurant in the vaulted basement of Waterford’s Chamber of Commerce building is cleverly flooded in light, with white arched ceilings giving the room a wonderful feeling of height.
The feeling is certainly France: French waiters are warm and friendly as you are shown to the bar for your aperitif - no cold French professionalism here, but they give one a feeling of being in expert hands. The shining glass, silver, and crisp white linen are perfect in this room, which has plenty of flowers, some nicely restrained art on the walls,
French music in the background, and - a homely touch - mismatched old crockery. Seasonally changed menus are not overlong but offer plenty of choice and good value for the quality of food and service; an early 2/3 course early dinner offers remarkable value at €26/29.50, and includes excellent dishes like a delicious seafood terrine served with rocket leaves and homemade herb mayonnaise, a chargrilled rib-eye steak with green peppercorn & cognac cream sauce, and a Sheridans farmhouse cheese plate among the options. At €36, the 'Market Menu' Table d’Hôte also offers good value and there is no time restriction.
The cooking style is modern classic French - and menus offer the rabbit, veal and game dishes that typify French restaurants and a list of daily specials, including a vegetarian dish and the soup, pinned on the menus - but there is a very strong emphasis on local provenance and the high quality of the region's produce. A strong seafood section includes fish landed nearby at Dunmore East and, not only is it a highlight on normal menus, but Seafood Night Menus are a regular feature. The website gives detailed information on the ethos at La Bohème, and the restaurant's valued suppliers, and it is well worth reading.
An excellent amuse bouche sets the tone for the cooking, and luxurious treats may include foie gras and, among the tempting range of seafood offered, a speciality of Dunmore East lobster, flambéed in cognac or Pernod and smothered in a herbed beurre blanc sauce.
Pleasingly, for Irish tastes, main courses are accompanied by some good mashed potatoes and vegetables, and in addition to the all-French cheese board, there are excellent classic desserts. The drinkslist includes good wines, of course - strongly French, as you would expect, but including some cheaper regional French wines, cocktails and a great selection of (mainly Irish) craft beers and ciders. Very good service backs up the excellent work done in the kitchen, ensuring a memorable experience.
This is a restaurant that is serious about its food and is a great asset to Waterford city.