"It's not much but it's ours"

Thursday, February 23, 2006



So, tonight I was invited to join my dear chum and esteemed wine writer, Maggie Rosen for supper.

She suggested we meet at The Scotch Whisky Society's Member's Bar above the Bleeding Heart Tavern close to Farringdon Station.

I had no idea this place existed. It specialises in buyng casks from mothballed distilleries ( I think ) and selling them by the expensive bottle ( in the brochure, about £50+ a bottle ) they also have a bar area both here and in their Edinburgh branch and I found myself sipping happily on the "malt of the month" while I waited for Maggie who arrived a few moments after I did. A very welcome oasis.

Bleeding Heart yard is one of those places in London whose name conjours up incredible history. In the 1700's, Elizabeth ( I think ) Hatton a well known society, er bike, was murdered there by a secret lover. She was found with blood still pumping from her chest in what is now the yard.

In some ways the tradition is being kept up well. For, if a crime was committed all those years ago, it certainly was tonight as I came away from supper feeling well and truly mugged.

Maggie had made a reservation at The Bleeding Heart Bistro for 7.30pm and we shambled across there on time after downing our scotch. The room is very nice in a classical "Robin's Nest" kind of way. A nice fire etc etc. The service is comedically French and airily haughty which is fine, or would be if the food was any good. It is not.

After persuading the incredibly snooty hostess that we did not want to be shoehorned into a table that was in the smallest space in Christendom, we finally had chance to look at the menu. Lots of things on there looked quite good to be honest and, if the cooking had been up to snuff, a decent meal could have been had.

To begin, Maggie chose a confit duck terrine. I did not try it, so cannot comment. I had calamari in a polenta crust. It came with a very good anchovy sauce and the squid itself was not bad at all, but the portion was so lilliputian as to be parsimonious.

We both ordered the cassoulet to follow. Again, when made well, one of the great bistro dishes. This was not made well. The cold spots in the dish laid testament to the ping of the microwave and the sausages had the texture of reformed meat. As for the beans, let's just say there are another 56 varieties. The only part of the dish that showed any skill in cooking was a crispy duck confit.

We did not have pudding, but I had a mint tea and Maggie nibbled on some biccies they brought with it.

With some sparkling water and a bottle of perfectly acceptable Beringer Zin, the bill was a substantial £72 inc tip. Hardly a steal ( well perhaps for the owners of the restaurant )

The place was packed which shows that London probably gets what it deserves.

Less that a quarter of a mile away, Comptoir Gascon is cooking the same sort of dishes up a storm. Their confit is a thing of beauty not a tin of Heinz. I know where I shall be going next time I fancy the bistro schtick


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