BISTROTHEQUE: AN EVENING ON NIGHT,MARE ST
It may surprise some people, considering the name of the blog and the fact that many people think we live in each other’s pockets in a Niles and Frasier Stylee, that it has been well over a month since DH actually sat down and broke bread together.
What with me being in NYC and Frankfurt and HP being in Spain, we have barely set eyes on each other let alone had chance to argue about the provenance of a piece of beef, the lack of chill on a Martini or the risibility of newspaper critics.
So, we have decided to make up for it and booked four meals together in the next few days.
Tonight, at HP’s suggestion Bistrotheque, way out East in London’s always and quite rightly unfashionable Hackney. I have said it many times before and I shall say it again. If they ever give the world an enema, they will shove the tube right up Mare st. Still, HP assured me that Bistrotheque would provide a decent meal so I endured the 35 minute walk from the civilisation of home and we arrived 15mins early for our 7.30pm table.
They had, apparently, called earlier in the day to inform HP that the night’s Transvestite Lipsync caberet was cancelled. Shame that. I could have used the extra £50 and I had my Shirley Temple costume all ready. Still, it did not affect our table and we settled in The Napoleon Bar for a drink.
It screeched of a place predicated on delivering booze to twenty somethings with no discernment. Crappy, gassy beers and lousy service. Quite horrible and I was almost ready to forgo supper and head home.
Fortunately, HP prevailed and persuaded me to stay. I am glad I did as this is a very passable restaurant. Competent, able cooking with decent service and with a price that, for London, can almost be considered as barely scratching the wallet.
It is part of the same spirit that has spawned The Rivington, Wapping Food, Canteen and Sam’s Brasserie. But, it is none the worse for that. As HP says, you can tell in the first few mouthfuls if the place has worthwhile intentions or not and Bistrotheque definitely has.
They do however need someone to make their cocktails for them. HP was not so critical, but I thought my Martini was actively rank and too warm. For £7.00 they should look at the ground and tell me how sorry they were.
Still, things rapidly got better. We, as ever shared three starters. My crab cake with saffron hollandaise looked like a parsimonious portion until I took my first bite at which point it zinged with flavour and richness which made me pleased it was no bigger. HP’s salad of beets with a “crispy” poached egg was no better than the sum of its parts and the egg while perfectly cooked was declared “like a scotch egg without the meat’ there can be no bigger damnation. It was, however, my sort of dish.
Best of all, though, was a plate of perfectly cooked chicken livers on top of a crunchy fried piece of bread with ample amounts of sauce in which to dunk it. Very worthwhile.
HP’s main course was a Navarin of Lamb. Excellent meat, what there was of it. Not much as it happens. Fortunately, supplemented by excellent Foie dumplings. But, for £17.00 a plate, I still think they got the best end of the deal even if we got the best end of the sheep.
Better was my roasted guinea fowl with salsify and braised shallots. The bird had been taken off the bone so as not to offend the stupid. I hate that, but it was perfectly cooked, moist through and through and with very definite taste. The sauce also had a definite taste, subject as it was to too fierce a reduction. A minor quibble. It was a very good dish.
Both were ably served by a £19 Duoro ( £5 at Waitrose, I think) on what was a short but well chosen wine list.
We shared a pudding of a flourless orange and almond cake with ginger ice cream and candied orange zest. I liked it a great deal. HP did not. We both, however, enjoyed a large glass of PX and he downed a “passable” Illy expresso.
The bill for two of us each having three courses ( bearing in mind we had three starters and one pudding ) came to £117 including 12.5% for service which was efficient if entirely anonymous. At £58 a pop given our propensity to test our livers and eat an extra portion of livers, this was very acceptable value.
You should, I think, always judge any restaurant by asking if you would go back. I probably would. I would just ask them if I could mix my own Martini