40 Wellington Street Covent Garden
London WCX2E 7BD
Boulevard Brasserie is located next to Covent Garden Piazza so within easy reach of the theatres, the Royal Opera House, the London Transport Museum and incidentally from the office. It got some bad reviews on London Eating, especially for the service but actually the service was all right, and the food too. It reminds me also the bad reviews Le P’tit Normand got, which were absolutely not founded. At least it shows in these two cases the restaurants do not write fake positive reviews as we see too often.
We went for the prix fixe lunch/pre theatre at £11.95 for 2 courses which is available between 12 and 7pm. As starters you have the choice between the soupe du jour, the goat’s cheese and caramelised onion tarte, the duck parfait with toasted brioche and homemade fig chutney, the wild rocket and parmesan salad and the egg florentine, wilted spinach with poached egg and hollandaise sauce.
For the second course you get the choice between the Donald Russell minute steak with béarnaise sauce and fresh cut fries, the poached salmon with hollandaise and new potatoes, the classic chicken Kiew with pommes puree, the traditional salad Niçoise with tuna in extra virgin olive oil and the spinach and ricotta ravioli with a sage butter sauce.
We chose the egg florentine and the duck parfait, followed by the steak and the salad Niçoise. As drinks we had a glass of red wine (£4) and a glass of grapefruit juice (£1.95).
The duck parfait was good. The slice was thinner than usual but actually it was fine. I am just mentioning it in case some big eaters are expecting a large slice of the parfait The toast was good and the fig chutney good too, not too sweet. Nothing like the weird chutney I had at The Prince Albert.
The egg florentine was very good. It was perfectly cooked – firm white with a just-liquid yolk. It was served on hot steamed spinach (not at all salty, unlike my recent horrific experience with a very similar dish at Joe Allen) and a nice creamy hollandaise sauce.
Donald Russell minute steak with béarnaise sauce
Massive bowl of fries
The steak was good, nothing special but not bad either. It came with a HUGE bowl of fries, it could have fed two people easily! They were thin and crispy, as I like them. The béarnaise sauce was good and creamy but they could have been more generous with it.
The salade niçoise was quite good. It was not exactly the size you’d expect to get in France, but its ingredients were fresh and it was nicely seasoned. I would happily take this dish again.
Cost and conclusion: it was £33.58 including service. It was a decent lunch, especially when we know how things can go wrong in this Covent Garden area. And the service was fine.
Le Bouchon Bordelais
5-9 Battersea Rise
London SW11 1HG
Le Bouchon Bordelais
Le Bouchon Bordelais is a restaurant located on Battersea Rise, not far from the popular Pizza Metro located on the other side of the road. It has a terrace on the foothpath, useful for smokers. Inside, on the left side it is the bar where you can go support the French football team and on the right side, isolated from the bar, is the restaurant area. It is nicely decorated, feeling normally French and not overdone like in some restaurants.
We ordered as starters the Vol au vent garni de St Jasques et Trompette des Morts (Scallop and trompette des mort vol au vent) and La Frisee aux Lardons Oeuf Poche (curly Endive Salad with Lardons and a Poached Egg). As main courses we had the Filet de Loup de Mer, Pommes Ecrasees aux Cebettes, Pomery Beurre Blanc (Panfried Seabass Filet, with Crushed Potatoes and Spring Onions, served with a Mustard Butter Sauce) and an Escalope de Veau servie avec Cepes sautees et Pommes de Terres en Raclette (Veal escalope with garlic sauted ceps, potatoes with raclette). The desserts were a tarte tatin and a chocolate fondant. As drink we had a bottle of Badoit and a glass of red wine (Merlot) which was decent.
One thing to mention here. We both wanted the 2 courses mushroom based menu at £25 but my first choice for starter which was the Terrine de Campagne , servie avec Chanterelle et gelee de Porto (Farmhouse Country side terrine served with chanterelle mushrooms and port Jelly) was not available and the main course I first chose which was the Filet de Cabillaud servie avec Girolle Sauce (Pan fried cod filet, spinash with pan fried Girolles in garlic) was not available either. I was told they were not available 3 minutes after we ordered. More precisely I was told after 3 minutes the main course was not available so I chose another one (the panfried seabass) and then the waiter came back to tell me my starter was not available either. Well, in a normal restaurant they tell the clients about the missing meals when giving the menus so it was a messy start from the cook who should have told the waiting staff about it. At least the next clients were told about the missing meals early enough.
Not great bread
One thing I really find annoying is to pay for bread, especially in a French restaurant. It reminds me the cover charges in Italy for the bread and butter and I do not think I have ever paid for bread in a restaurant in France. Right, we are not in France but in the UK – but even in London most other French restaurants do not charge for bread… Well, here the bread was on the dry side which really was annoying. At Bellevue Rendez-vous or Le P’tit Normand you get excellent bread and they do not charge for it.
Scallop and trompette des morts vol au vent
Curly Endive Salad with Lardons and a Poached Egg
La Frisee aux Lardons Oeuf Poche was not bad, with nice bacon and a perfectly cooked egg but unfortunately there was too much dressing so some croutons were soaked with vinaigrette and not crispy at all.
The scallop and mushroom vol au vent was quite good, though the mushrooms weren’t terribly noticable (I think they were in the sauce). Actually it was a solo scallop inside a nice flaky pastry vol au vent. The scallop itself was a bit salty, but it combined well with the very un-salty pastry, so overall was a nice dish. It was accompanied by some steamed spinach, which went rather well with the mushroom sauce.
The main courses
Veal escalope with garlic sauted ceps, potatoes with raclette
Panfried Seabass Filet
The panfried seabass fillet was good, with a lovely buttery sauce. The flesh was firm and tasty. My minor complaint here is about the skin which could have been crispy, like at they do so well at Chez Lindsay in Richmond. Here it was somewhat soggy.
The veal dish was a little bit uninteresting. I can’t really say bland, since the mushrooms were a bit too salty and the veal had quite a strong flavour also. The potatoes certainly were bland though – in fact some boiled and halved potatoes held together in a circular arrangement with a small amount of over-grilled cheese (not at all what I had expected from something described as raclette). Overall, not offensive, but far from the best veal dish I’ve ever had (which is a shame, as veal can be a very nice meal).
The chocolate fondant was excellent. It was nicely presentated, the chocolate was melting well when the shell was broken and it was not too sweet. It was matching well with the ice cream.
The tarte tatin was quite good – a good choice of apples (neither too sweet nor too bitter) and a freshly made pastry base. I think just a little overcooked though, which was a bit of a shame as the pastry was thus a bit dry and hard on the edges.
Cost and conclusion: it was £83.50 including the 12.5% service charge. Average food, nothing outstanding and the prices on the high side. The service was friendly and polite but obviously the communication within the staff isn’t very efficient.
110 Battersea Rise, Clapham
London SW11 1EJ
TV scren for those into sports
We have noticed the Duck on our way to the excellent Japanese restaurant Tokiya. Actually, it is hard to miss the huge fire of their oven through the windows, especially in the evening. Inside, it is quite large and they have different rooms at different levels. It is basically decorated and it can feel even a little empty. There are tv screens for watching sports. The Duck is more a “real” pub than a gastropub. You go there for drinking mostly and food is essentially wraps (from £3.95 to £4.95), pasta, salads and pizzas (from £6.25 to £8.50 for 12″, they also have 6″ pizzas) which is fine since we were wanting to try their pizzas.
They have many different kinds of pizzas and beyond the regular Margherita or Quattro Formaggio some were more unusual, like the pizza Carne Fuego (salami, chorizo, Parma ham, pepperoni, spicy meatballs, mozzarella, fresh green chillies – £8.75), pizza Pesci ed Oliva (tuna, black olives, anchovies, red onion and mozzarella – 6.95), pizza Fajita Chicken (chicken, roasted peppers, fajita spice, red onions and mozzarella -£7.50), pizza BBQ Chicken (roasted chicken with red onion, mozzarella and BBQ sauce – £7.50), and pizza Formaggio di Capre (goats cheese, pesto, black olives, mozzarella, finished with rocket leaves – £7.25).
Their pizzas are stone baked and the dough is homemade and hand stretched as we could see from the cook making them in front of the fire. It is possible to have any of their 12″ pizzas served ‘calzone’ in a calzone way (folded) by just asking them when you place your order.
We ordered the classical pizza Romana (mozzarella, mascarpone cheese, Parma ham and red onion – £7.75) and a less classical pizza Crispy duck (with hoi sin sauce, mozzarella and finished with spring onions – £8.50) for curiosity. As drink we had a pint of Stella and a glass of grapefruit juice.
The two pizzas
The pizza Romana was basic but good. Nothing spectacular but nothing wrong either too. The pasta was thin and crispy. One thing that surprised me was the pizza arrived already sliced. I guess it is more convenient for the guests watching sport. The spicy olive oil was unfortunately missing but they had garlic oil which was ok.
Sharing the pizza crispy duck with the pizza romana
The pizza crispy duck was a bit strange, and rather too sweet with its hoi sin sauce. Well, it was always going to be an experiment, but its not one that I’ll repeat. Even with a different topping, this pizza base was a bit hard for my liking, clearly the pizza dough had not been left to rise for many hours prior to cooking. Overall, adequate but uninspiring.
Cost and conclusion: it was about £20 something. It is ok for watching sport with friends and beer but we would not go back just for the food, especially with Tokiya a few metres away and Pizza Metro 5 minutes walk away if you are into pizza.
1 Ramsden road, Balham
SW12 8QX London
Gazette is a French restaurant located in Balham, between Waitrose and Sainsbury. It has two levels: the ground floor and the basement. As the ground floor was quite full we went to the basement which was already half full at just mid day. It is decorated a little strangely with a flat screen tv showing videos of beautiful areas of France, the tables vary in style, there are several couches, and large racks of wine stored against the walls.
The menu at Gazette varies daily, and we ordered the roast duck breast with green cabbage and foie gras sauce (magret de canard rôti au choux vert et sauce foie gras – £14), and the roast fillet of cod, chervil root meat jus (filet de cabillaud rôti, racine de cerfeuil au jus – £14). The staff are mainly French-speaking – as we found when ordering, as our waiter seemed rather relieved to be asked if he spoke French: in fact he had only been working there for a short time.
Later, we had a waitress who spoke only English, and who took our dessert order of little chocolate pots and freshly cooked Madeleines (petits pots de chocolat et Madeleine cuite maintenant – £4.50) and thin apple tart cooked upside down, vanilla ice cream (tarte fine aux pommes cuite à l’envers, glace vanille – £4.50).
As drinks we had a glass of red wine Cabernet Sauvignon Les Perles vin de pays d’Oc 2006 (£4.20) and a glass of squeezed grapefruit juice (2.50). The grapefruit juice was indeed freshly squeezed (made to order), and was excellent. It came with just a little ice, so after a small wait, was just right to drink.
Other interesting meals were the pan fried foie gras with apple, lime and chestnuts (£11.50), the tomato and mustard tart (£9.50) and the côte de boeuf for 2, dauphinoise gratin and béarnaise sauce (£19.50 per person).
Fillet of cod
The fillet of cod was quite nicely cooked, though I found (unusually for a French restaurant) that it completely lacked any seasoning. It is rare for me to reach for the salt pot, but on this occassion, it was needed. With that small addition, the dish was very good and nicely set off by the chervil root (a vegetable a bit like a parsnip or turnip). I would make a bit of a complaint about the dish it was served in though, which was a small-but-deep metal pan (a bit like a milk pan), which made it difficult to use a knife and fork correctly (I had a similar complaint about Terroirs – but fortunately, in this case the complaint is only about the serving dish, not the food as well).
Roast duck breast with green cabbage and foie gras sauce
The magret was excellent. Very well cooked and with the foie gras sauce it was delicious. The green cabbage were also perfectly cooked and crispy. It was served on a fry pan rather than a plate, but as it was quite flat it was not a problem.
Thin apple tart cooked upside down
The apple tart had its good and bad points. On the upside, it was made with naturally sweet apples and had no need of sugar added. The downside was that it was a bit overcooked, and the pastry had lost that lovely puffiness and lightness that it would have had if rescued from the oven a few minutes sooner.
Little chocolate pots and freshly cooked Madeleines
The pots of chocolate were quite dense, not bad but I was happy the pots were small. Fortunately the little madeleines were warm and light, counterbalancing the chocolate.
Cost and conclusion: it was £49 including the 12.5% discretionary service charge. Very friendly staff and a quite decent lunch. It was a nice discovery. As for the price, it is not cheap but then I find Balham to be on the expensive side, and often with not-so-great food (Harrison’s, Hop & Spice, the Devonshire) or bad value for money (Lamberts) compared to Clapham or Wandsworth Common (Bellevue Rendez-vous & Cafe du village) with the decor being privileged compared to food.