Cozy French Bistro Fare @ Cafe Lola in Fairfield

Stephanie Webster

[UPDATE: This restaurant is closed] While I was admiring the outdoor seating with it’s Paris cafe chairs and flower boxes brimming with red geraniums, The restaurant with it’s quaint buttercup yellow exterior turned out to be Café Lola, the self professed “love-child” of owners Henri and Ivanina Donneaux. The couple dreamed of a casual, cozy bistro with French comfort food, inspired by their love of Paris and Provence. This wonderful Fairfield cafe is right on the mark. And the Croque Madame is out of this world...

The group was immediately impressed by the undeniable style and charm of the physical space. If you are lucky enough to catch a sunny day, the outdoor seating is lovely as it is not on the Post road but on the quieter Unquowa Street.  Inside it's bright and cheery with gilded mirrors, chandeliers, and unique design touches like a single column covered in wine labels. 

We asked for a wine recommendation while we contemplated the menu, and were pleased to receive two distinctly different but both excellent recommendations from their reasonably priced wine list. While we waited for our food, we were given a wonderfully crispy French baguette from a local favorite, Billy’s Bakery in Fairfield, accompanied by delicious lightly salted whipped butter.  I appreciated their use of local vendors, and this can be seen throughout their menu. 

The Lunch Menu is broken down by Cold, Hot, and Whatever Lola Wants (Your Own Salad Masterpiece). We began with the classic Salad Nicoise, this one made with grilled medium-rare fresh tuna. It was as solid starter. We then moved on to the Hot side of the menu with a Croque Madame-Frites (which is like the Monsieur, add a fried egg). This was hands down the best in class for Fairfield County. For those unfamiliar with the Croque family, we are talking about a grilled ham and Gruyere cheese sandwich mingled with Béchamel sauce (and in the Madame’s case, a fried egg on top). Yes, I know what you’re thinking. If I eat that for lunch I’ll have to hit the gym. Don’t think...just eat. The grilled buttered bread was wonderfully crunchy, while the interior, laden with Béchamel and Gruyere, was moist and chewy. It was divinely decadent .

Next out of the kitchen were the Moules (Mussels) Au Curry (seen above). The mussels were steamed and then finished with a light Madras curry sauce, speckled with lovely bits of celery, scallion, carrot, and onion. The mussels were cooked just right, and were very fresh. The aromatic sauce (which was really more of a thick broth) was buttery yet light, fragrant, and absolutely delicious. We finished off another round of that Billy’s Bakery bread to avoid wasting a single drop. 

The fries were no slouch either...crispy and salty without any greasiness. 

This is not your standard ratatouille “mush” where you are unable to distinguish what you are eating but you know it tastes good. Cafe Lola’s version is more pristine, with intact pieces of eggplant, zucchini, tomato, and green pepper. It was plated atop a generous portion of couscous which provided nice contrast and texture. The only complaint was the high ratio of green peppers to the other more sought after vegetables in the medley. 

Unfortunately, as it was lunch, and we were driving, we did not partake in the wonderful Cocktails menu, but with items like Lola in the Fall (Absolut, Gingerbread Liqueur, and Fresh Apple Cider), and The Starving Artist (Absinthe, Absolut Kurant, and Creme De Menthe), we will be returning to do additional sampling. More on that later.

Lunch will run you about $20 a person without wine. Café Lola 57 Unquowa Road, Fairfield. 203-292-8014. 

L and D: Tues.–Sat. Brunch: Sun.

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