Although it’s not our normal stomping ground, we popped down to Chiswick to meet friends for dinner the night before we left for our holiday in the Falklands (in late January). On a Monday night, the restaurant was nearly empty when we arrived promptly for our 7.30 booking but we were shown to a lovely corner table by the window and quickly settled in.
The interior is quite traditional in a pretty, homely way but with a few modern touches in the lighting and little details.
Three of us ordered from their set dinner menu priced at £22.50 for 3 courses and one ordered à la carte.
From the set menu the chicken liver parfait, toast, gherkins & radishes was delicious. Rich, creamy, soft liver pâté with fresh salad and crunchy crudités. Good, straightforward, well-executed bistro fare.
From the main menu, the rabbit and foie gras terrine was pronounced perfectly nice, though I felt the foie gras was a bit overwhelmed by the rabbit and the bacon wrapping. The savoury sweet chutney was good.
None of us had a clue what sausage morteau, apple, beetroot and lentil salad would be like and asking the staff didn’t help, they just came back with “french sausage” which covers everything from andouille to boudin blanc to toulouse sausage! It is, we discovered, like a posh frankfurter in flavour, though as you can see, considerably larger in diameter and with a nicer, more fibrous meaty texture.
Two of us ordered the braised veal cheeks, saffron risotto for our mains, from the set menu. The cheeks were just as tender, meaty, rich and flavoursome as expected. Very tasty but not quite as good as the pig cheeks we enjoyed at Bob Bob Ricard earlier that month. But the risotto had so much saffron it was far too bitter and strong for me, and I couldn’t eat a bite. I was surprised that the staff didn’t comment, as is commonly the case when a customer hardly touches a dish but I wouldn’t have asked for an alternative, given that I wanted to have space for dessert, so it wasn’t an issue.
The ox cheek bourgignonne, carrots and mash from the main menu was superb. An absolutely terrific rendition of a classic dish, I wouldn’t fault it. Spot on!
From the set menu, the aged rump steak & pommes frites was decent. Nothing special but perfectly satisfactory.
Whilst it was good to see that the cheese option on the set menu didn’t come with a price supplement (as is so often the case) the selection of French farmhouse cheese was only so-so according to the two who shared it. I can’t comment directly as *gasp* I didn’t actually try any!
We were delighted to see ile flottante on the set menu as Pete loves this French classic. A lovely, generous, sweet meringue was served floating over a rich crème anglaise (custard). Traditionally, the meringue is very lightly poached; I don’t know if that’s how they prepare it at Le Vacherin but certainly it was light and spongey as one would expect.
From the main menu came the fabulous fig tart with vacherin cheese ice-cream. Care had obviously been taken to select only really delicious, ripe and flavoursome figs and these, with the “smelly feet” ice-cream (as my companions described it) and the light pastry base was just perfect. I’d happily make the journey again (and it’s not exactly anywhere near us) just for this one dish, which was the highlight of the meal for me. Just marvellous!
So, a good meal, all in all and very reasonably priced, when choosing from the set dinner menu.
The only let down, for me, was the service. Whilst it started out reasonably warmly, it became decidely less attentive as the evening wore on. And lest you think we outstayed our welcome on a quiet Monday night, we arrived at 7.30 and were asking for our bill significantly before 9.30 pm! By then we were the only customers left (of very few to start) and yet, when it came to giving us the bill, the staff seemed more intent on laying tables for the next day than actually processing our payment!
If I were more local, I’d certainly pop in again, as perhaps the service was down to January blues and is usually more in keeping with the friendly bistros we so enjoy in France.