French cuisine finds a home in Hamilton

Michelle Yeung
December 1, 2016
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 4 minutes

Nestled in one of the many historical buildings in the downtown core is a new restaurant named The French, a modern french bistro that boasts skillful takes on traditional french dishes with rich, diverse flavours.

Featuring beautiful floor-to-ceiling windows out front, one is welcomed by the restaurant’s namesake on its front door in gold leaf branding, a stylistic decor that is reminiscent of the many French bistros in Paris. It seems that once The French officially opens its doors in mid-December, Hamiltonians will be able to get a little taste of France on King William St.

The French is the third venture from owner Jason Cassis, who has already made his mark on the Hamilton food scene with The Aberdeen Tavern and Dundurn Market. Backed by a talented and experienced team that includes head chef John Forcier and manager Cory Tower, The French is prepared for business both in the kitchen and on the dining floor. In particular, Forcier has worked in the industry for a while, spending the past four and a half years at Canoe, the renowned Oliver and Bonacini restaurant located on the fifty-fourth floor of Toronto’s TD Bank Tower.

Although he credits the world of fine-dining for teaching him a very different way of cooking, Forcier is excited to return to his roots of working in a bistro-style setting.


“For me [The French] is about getting back to simple, honest cooking… the ingredients should speak for themselves. [Personally, I don’t see a point] in taking some beautiful baby cabbages and [doing something extravagant with it]… I don’t need to get in the way of that cabbage, because it stands on its own. And that kind of translates through all [of our cooking]. Other than make [a duck confit] nice and crispy and well-seasoned, I don’t need to mess around with it; in doing so I can keep giving you the best version of [any dish]. We’re really just taking a very natural approach to cooking,” said Forcier.

On the hospitality front, Tower hopes for The French to shed the idea of French cuisine as an exclusively black-tie affair and lend itself to be an approachable and welcoming neighbourhood spot.

“We want you to feel like you can come in anytime… we want to be the place where people want to go because the [price point, atmosphere and food are great]. We don’t want to be just a destination restaurant for special occasion dinners; [The French] will be a local spot for people to stop by without a plan, [to grab a drink or a bite to eat at anytime]. [Come whenever], and we’ll welcome you with open arms,” said Tower.

Although the restaurant has yet to open, avid supporters have already been delighted by a series of preview dinners held at The Aberdeen Tavern. Boasting a small, curated menu, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.


The menu boasts classic French dishes with flavourful influences from all over the world.  An example, and one of Forcier’s favourites, is the bourguignon, which is comprised of delectably braised beef cheeks, marinated in red wine and pair together with crispy pork belly among other fresh ingredients.

“[The menu] was really about nailing down what we wanted [The French] to stand for; we have this classic bistro vibe paired with modern cooking and we wanted to meet half-way… so we decided to look at what Paris is doing right now. Paris is where bistros are born, and Paris is not all French anymore. There are a lot of Middle Eastern influences, lots of Spanish influence, North African, Moroccan…so what does that mean for French food now? Well, it still means that you’re cooking with an exceptional level of care and discipline…but there’s a an interesting spin and spices [thrown in]. Take the cauliflower puree for instance; we put a North African spin to it with the spices used, along with topping it off with apricots which brings along really Moroccan flavour profile in a traditional French-style dish…we’ve done our own spin on it but it’s still very classic French. It’s a very multinational take on French cooking,” said Forcier.


Perhaps the most commendable aspect of The French is its attention to detail, in its food and decor. The atmosphere is a meticulous juxtaposition of historical stone walls with contemporary chandeliers and murals. In the kitchen, something as simple as the butter served with pre-meal bread is even made in- house.

“It’s one of the things I’m most proud of. And it’s also a little encompassing of our philosophy. It’s butter. It’s easy, it’s simple. You put it on the table with some bread and you don’t need to think much about it. But here, we do think about that: how do you make an amazing bread and butter service? For me it’s making your own butter and getting the best bread you possibly can,” said Forcier.

When asked about the one ingredient that embodies The French, Forcier was quick to answer.

“I would have to say the butter. It exemplifies the whole philosophy of the kitchen – taking something very simple and making it into something fantastic.”



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