British Restaurant Lamberts
2 Station Parade, Balham High Road
London SW12 9AZ
Reviewed on Thursday 11 June 2009
Lamberts is a surprising restaurant. From outside the first impression is not good. It is squeezed between a store selling junk like CDs, smoke smell remover etc and a Firefly bar. Once you are inside things are much better. It is bigger than it looked and designed in a smart modern way. The tables are pretty close together though, so it is not good for private conversations.
They have an interesting mid-week set menu (2 courses for £20 or 3 courses for £24) but we were more attracted by meals that were not included in the set menu. As starters we ordered the seared venison, white beans, aubergine and watercress pesto (£7) and a chargrilled cornish squid, black pudding and curly endive salad (£7). A few slices of bread were offered with a little pot of oil. The bread was nice and fresh, but we did not find it good. It was a little sweet like a brioche but too salty at the same time. A bottle of chilled tap water was provided too which is nice.
The venison was excellent. Very nicely cooked, tender and complemented well by the pesto. The white beans were a slightly strange accompaniment though, and the plate it was served in may have looked nice, but didn’t make it very easy to eat the meal elegantly. A bit more practicality required. The chargrilled cornish squid was really good too. Warm, a little crispy on the outside with a kind of very light barbecue taste. The black pudding was on the salty side but with the endive salad and the squid it was a good balance. It could have been warmer though.
Seared venison, white beans, aubergine and watercress pesto
Chargrilled cornish squid, black pudding and curly endive salad
As main courses we chose the wood pigeon, roast foie gras, pearl barley and braised chicory (£18) and a “Rare Breed Beef from the Chargrill – sourced from farms in Scotland and Denham Estate in Suffolk” which happened to be a Galloway sirloin (£18). The desserts were a passion fruit tart, raspberry coulis & crème fraîche (£6) and a four British cheese from Neal’s Yard Dairy (£8). The wine was an excellent Argentinian Passo Doble 2007, Malbec-Corvina, Masi Tupungato (£28).
Like the venison, the beef was excellent. One of the best steaks I have had in London. I am glad I asked for medium rare – what I got was closer to what I would consider medium (which is to say, nicely pink in the middle), and exactly how I like it. It was nicely browned on the outside, with just a touch of burn to give it flavour, pink and tender in the middle, but not at all bloody. I didn’t think too much of the accompaniments though – some floury chips and a fried tomato. That’s a bit more what I would expect from a steakhouse or in an all-day-breakfast. There was no choice of sauce – fine, since I like bearnaise – but bad luck for anyone who does not. It was a good bearnaise. I ate pigeons only once previously, and that was in 1986. They were pigeons I hunted when I lived in Ivory Coast, so I was curious about eating that meat again. I am glad to report the wood pigeon was perfectly cooked and the meat was tender. Actually I chose that meal mostly for the roast foie gras, it happened it was served with a wood pigeon The foie gras was excellent with a wonderful taste and melting smoothly in the mouth!
Passo Doble 2007
The wood pigeon with the roast foie gras on top
The four British cheeses from Neal’s Yard Dairy were good and served with oatcakes – but for £8 I cannot help comparing the 4 cheeses chosen for you at Lamberts with the fantastic cheese board and wide selection the customer gets to choose from at Bellevue Rendez-vous not far away for about the same price. The passion fruit tart was very good – and for once they got the accompaniments exactly right. The tart itself was a little too sweet for my taste, but it was nicely balanced by the raspberry coulis and creme fraiche – both of which were sour. The overall effect was just right.
Four British cheese
Passion fruit tart
Cost and conclusion: it was £103.50 including the “discretionary service charge of 12.5%”. You know I am against the service charge automatically added to the bill. It should be up to the client to decide what he wants to give, or not. The first bill came with an error overcharging me because of a set menu being added to the bill. The waitress apologised and quickly corrected the mistake without discussion. Talking about the service, it was friendly and efficient. Details would be given on each cheese, the kind of cow breed per example. It is nice to see the waitresses being involved in what they serve. It is a little difficult to evaluate Lamberts. The food was good but not perfect and a little overpriced. Not far away and in a much better surrounding than Balham train station (next to Wandsworth common) you can go to Chez Bruce which is a French style Michelin-starred restaurant where the set menu costs £40 for three courses. It will be more expensive but it is also one of the top restaurants in London. Near Chez Bruce you have Bellevue Rendez-vous which is a family run French restaurant with an excellent value for money (around £70 for two, also three courses and bottle of wine included).