French restaurant Gastro
67 Venn Street, Clapham Common
London SW4 0BD
Gastro is a French restaurant that was recommended to me by a French guy while I was eating at Bellevue Rendez-vous. It is located a minute’s walk from Clapham Common tube station, in front of Clapham Picturehouse Cinema. It is possible to eat on the terrace but we decided to eat inside. It is like an old French café du village. Seeing the old wooden table, the confiture Bonne Maman jars on the table and that kind of glass (see photos), it made me remember a holiday I spent as a child at la Bourboule in the Puy-de-Dôme in Auvergne, central France. If you have the nostalgia of France, this is the place to visit. All the staff are French and they were friendly. We talked in French naturellement.
As starters, we ordered steak tartare (£7.85) and gravalax (£9.95). For the main course, we ordered breaded veal with risotto (£15.50) and duck with pepper sauce and olive polenta (£16.80). The wine was a bottle of Clairières Merlot 2007 vin de pays d’Oc (£15.50 – you can get it for £5.12 at slurp.co.uk) which was good.
Clairières Merlot 2007
Tranches de baguette, avec du beurre
The two starters
Nicely presented steak tartare
Steak tartare with the egg on
The steak tartare was something of a do-it-yourself affair – which is to say that the ground beef arrived in the centre of my plate, surrounded by 7 little bowls containing egg, diced shallots, anchovies, mustard, parsley, olive oil and capers. This allowed me to spice the meat to my own tastes. Overall, it wasn’t bad but I could have used a bit more shallot as overall it was just a little bland (which I had to remedy with mustard). Unfortunately, I discovered a couple of bits of fat in the meat half way through, that rather put me off (I don’t like beef fat). So overall, not a bad tartare, but nothing out of the ordinary either and far from the best I’ve tasted.
The gravalax was good. The slices of salmon marinated with dill and spices were quite large. The sour cream sauce was fine but I found the blintz to be a little dry.
Overview of the two main courses
The breaded veal was also a bit ordinary. OK, choosing breaded veal with risotto (Italian style food) in a French restaurant possibly was not the best choice in the world. But whilst I can take or leave risotto, I do like breaded veal. Except when it is swimming in oil. And unfortunately this was quite greasy, with not a lot of flavour – needing the addition of quite a lot of salt to relieve the blandness. Overall, a pretty ordinary meal and not an experiment I’m going to be in any hurry to repeat.
Magret de canard
The magret de canard was quite good. The slices were tender, perfectly cooked. The pepper sauce was quite strong, which I like, but it was a little on the salty side. I was not impressed by the olive polenta, which I found to be bland. The sauce did help but I think it would have been better to have some pommes de terre sautées with vegetables instead. Or a gratin dauphinois.
Cost and conclusion: it was £73.80 and that included the “discretionary” service charge automatically added. You know I am against that and it should be left at the discretion of the client. The service was fine but there were some issues with the food. It was not bad but it was average and, at this cost, the value is not good compared to other French restaurants like Bellevue Rendez-vous in Wandsworth Common, La Bouchée in South Kensington or Chez Lindsay in Richmond, all restaurants with fully French staff. They do have cheap lunch/brunch menus and then the value for money can be pretty good.