LA TROUVAILLE: A SUNKEN TREASURE
La Trouvaille plays an important part in DH eating history.
We “discovered” the place after a party way back in 2001, HP having read about it during his ongoing and thorough research into new openings in London.
We expected little, the service was shambolic and the room messy, but our meal turned out to be one of those all too rare occasions when the first bite of food tells you that you are on to something. It was a great meal, lavender scented lamb, petite salle with crisp, crackling skin and reasonably priced wines from an eccentric wine list chosen by the equally eccentric owners, who could regularly be seen shooting off on the back of a scooter in search of missing ingredients.
The ingredients themselves were top notch too, it was the first place I encountered Poilane bread in a restaurant and everything else was sourced from Borough Market before if became Disneyland. We loved it and returned often. We brought people from the food boards here and our posts on Chowhound even prompted Jay Rayner to review it for The Observer.
These things never last, of course and eventually, when they opened a second, short-lived branch in Islington and ended up with two not very good places rather than one great one, we stopped going. I had not been back in at last five years, but when my publisher, Eleanor asked me to arrange somewhere for lunch where we could talk the location made it pop back into my mind.
It’s changed since my last visit. Haven’t we all? There is now a smart dining room upstairs with linen table clothes and dreadful, awkward plastic chairs. But, the menu still reads well, filled with rustic sounding French dishes and with two courses for £16.50 looked like reasonable value for money, particularly as we were all sticking to mineral water.
I didn’t try the black pudding starter chose by my editor, Bernie, but it looked suitably plumped out with blobs of fat and would probably have made a better choice that the Oeuf Meurrette chosen by myself and Eleanor. The eggs were cooked perfectly and dribbled yolk into the red wine sauce. But, the lardons, scattered on top, had not been cooked to a crunch and the eggs themselves were too white to have been poached in the wine. It was a poor assembly kit of a dish that can be one of the greats and don’t get me started on the stupid dishes that caused knife, fork and spoon to slither messily down to the table when we tried to rest them.
An onglet main course saw a decent hunk of beef presented and cooked perfectly rare as ordered, but the announced frites turned out not to be of the crispy, delicious gallic variety but of the thick, fat and ugly British type and they remained nearly all untouched.
I did not try either of the other dishes, but the dryness of Bernie’s duck appeared to have been hidden under a sauce that had split and Eleanor’s lamb casserole struck me as workaday at best. That’s the problem La Trouvaille was never workaday. Even when I popped in there for quick lunches, it always delivered in both food and charm, but at this meal, while service remained friendly, the whole thing had lost the quirkiness that made the place, as its name suggests, such a little treasure.
It’s now just A.N. Other French bistro and unfortunately not a desperately good one at that. DH will just have to keep digging.