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 main courses
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.