Manuel's Bread Cafe, @manuelbreadcafe, is one of those gems in the CSRA that I am not sure many know about. Tucked away into the North Augusta community of Hammond's Ferry, Manuel's is so much more than what its name lends one to believe. Sure, they do have some of the finest local breads made and they do serve 3 meals a day on the corner of a street like a neighborhood cafe. However, Manuel's is not your typical cafe in terms of the exceptional French cooking and the fresh produce from the neighborhood farm, Blue Clay Farms.
Chef Manuel Verney-Carron has brought his classical French training to the Augusta area with a very nice twist, and the menu is seasonal to boot with specials changing daily. The bread was exceptional, and Manuel sells his breads in the restaurant and at the local farmers markets in the area. The food was outstanding. The atmosphere was amazing. The service was first class.
Upon arrival we walked into the restaurant to see a giant black board above the bar that listed all the various specials for each course. At the front of the board was a Happy Anniversary greeting just for us. Nice touch to make us feel welcome, especially on our first visit to your restaurant. We did notice the impressive dessert display to our left as well when we walked in. I will get back to that later on.
We were then seated in the movie room. One of the nice touches is that they play old French movies on the wall in the back room. There is no volume on for these, but that didn't matter as I was reading out the subtitles and acting out the parts myself. There wasn't anyone else back there us at that point in time, so I could get away with acting a fool for those few minuets. They did give us an interesting selection for a movie being that it was our Anniversary dinner...Diary of a Chambermaid.
Our first course consisted of my wife getting a Caprisi Salad and I went with the French Onion Soup. The FOS was made with a combo stock of beef, veal, and lamb. The flavor was off the charts and though this didn't look like the most impressive FOS ever, the taste test told something different. It was by far one of the best bowls of FOS I have ever had. As for the Caprisi Salad, only one word can describe this...fresh. Just something to be said for local produce that is picked that day. It really does make all the difference in the world between fine dining and your chain restaurants.
For the main course I ate the Surf and Turf while my wife had the Raviolli. I wish I could remember the cheese combo, and spices, that were in the Raviolli (it was one of the chefs specials for the night)but I don't. Just know that it was heavy but damn near perfect. It was some of the best raviollis I have ever tasted. As for my surf and turf...the fillet was cooked to perfection and the the dish itself was quite refreshing. I was told that the shrimp was going to have a strong licorice taste/smell to it, but I had neither. The shrimp were cooked in Pernod. I love licorice, so that wouldn't have been a bad thing. However, it really wasn't that strong or over powering. Just great dishes all the way around.
We saved a little room for dessert and headed over to the case for our deliberation on which amazing piece of cake we wanted. Having trouble deciding the waitress told us that we could have a sampler plate with 3 slivers of cake. Slivers doesn't sound that bad, so that is what we went with. All I wanted was the Goat Cheese Cheesecake, so that was our first selection. I told my wife to pick out whatever else she wanted to try. She selected the Peanut Butter Cake and a Triple Chocolate Cake that was wrapped in fudge. When our plate came out we quickly learned that a sliver at Manuel's is like 2 pieces of cake. No way in the world we were going to make a dent in this plate, let alone finish it. The cheesecake was off the charts good and the other two were amazing, but way to rich for my blood. Still...they were all so gooooooood.
After dinner we took a nice walk through the neighborhood and down by the Savannah River. A beautiful sunset capped off an amazing dinner. If you live in the area, do yourself a favor and check out Manuel's. Planning a trip to Augusta? Make sure you add Manuel's to your must eat list of restaurants.