Thursday, 23 July 2009

La Petite Petanque - Southend

Whenever I visit Southend, I often pass the forlorn, closed and boarded up Alexandra Bowling Green Pavilion in the lovely Victorian Clifftown Conservation area just on the edge of the town, and without fail say the same thing to my GF....."That would make a fantastic restaurant".

Well it seems the owners of San Fairie Ann, a successful restaurant just round the corner in Alexandra Road have been thinking the same thing.

La Petite Petanque, a Cafe-Bistro opened a few weeks ago, and the new owners have obviously refurbished the Victorian Pavilion building to an extremely high standard, which is lovely to see. I hate to see fantastic old buildings such as this one fall into disrepair. They have so much character and history, they deserve to be looked after.

I visited on a Sunday for lunch, a typical British summers day with the Sun making the odd appearance out from behind the clouds, but the threat of rain ever present. The lush emerald grass of the Bowling Green in the middle of the pretty Victorian Square with the Pavilion sitting at one end, large Union Jack fluttering in the breeze. People seated outside and sitting under the open terrace framed with ancient wisteria....It presented an almost timeless picture, and could have been anytime from the late 1800's to the 1950's.

We briefly passed through the restaurant which has been refurbished in the style of a French Bistro, a baby grand piano sitting at one end, and opted to sit outside on the terrace, to study the menu.
I went for the club sandwich which the menu told me consisted of Chicken, Red Onion, Tomato, Egg Mayonnaise, Avocado Cream and Bacon. This came with hand cooked vegetable chips and a green salad.
The GF ordered off the chalked specials board, a Mediterranean roast vegetable quiche with salad. We ordered a couple of bowls of chips as a side order.
The terrace area was busy, and service was brisk and efficient. The food arrived quickly and I'm pleased to say my Club Sandwich was pretty good. The GF had made the better choice, the quiche was delicious with a nice strong cheese taste and light pastry.

Onto the gripes, albeit minor ones. My vegetable chips were a bit lacklustre, they lacked bite and were a bit tasteless and soft. The Club Sandwich lacked Seasoning. the side orders of chips were OK, a bit soft perhaps- I think crisp frites would work much better and be more in keeping with the Bistro vibe. Also, the green salad could do with a bit more dressing.

As for the menu, I was extremely pleased to see that the Breakfast section, available till 12 is very homegrown- Full English, Porridge, Kippers....but the lunch choices appear to jump all over the Mediterranean.
Personally, In keeping with the sheer timeless British look of the place, I'd like to see the menu emphasis on a more seasonal, good standard British menu. Think Mark Hix but obviously quite a few notches down the scale. But It's early days yet, so perhaps some tweaking will follow.

But for all that, the food was good. The surroundings are about as pleasant as you can get. The terrace is an extremely nice place to sit and eat lunch. I could quite happily while away the hours sitting there, especially if the Sun puts in an appearance.
The refurbishment is cracking, so all credit to the owners for breathing life back into the old building. It's a pity that due to it's location in the conservation area that it's only open till 7pm, It would be lovely place to sit and eat on a summers evening.

Overall - La Petite Petanque is a credit to Southend, I'll certainly be visiting again.

La Petite Petanque
Alexandra Bowling Green Pavilion
Cambridge Road


The Ample Cook said...

Nice review Dan. I agree about the early closing, however I think we'd feel the same if we lived in one of the houses that surrounds the site don't you? You know how loud people can get when they're boozing.

Food sounds good - what mains do they do?

Dan said...

Thanks Jan. Yeah, I can see why it has the early closing - but not living there myself, can't say I agree with it! Selfish? Moi?

Mains -
Market Fish of the day

Minted Lamb chops with roasted new potatoes and Redcurrant Jus £12.95

Free Range Chicken with Mango & Curry Cream with Parma Ham. (sounds good) £10.95

Quiche de Jour with summer salad £5.95

Tagliatelle with sun-dried tomato Pesto, cherry tomatoes, wilted rocket and Mushroom £7.95

Chilli Lime & Prawn Salad with Rocket and julienne Peppers £9.95

Boo said...

Looks good, what a great building. At least they're open early to compensate I suppose, the breakfast menu sounds great with something for everyone.

Graphic Foodie said...

BUNTING! I'm there...

Douglas Blyde said...

A good club sandwich is marvellous. What an interesting building and so good to see it rehabilitated.

Anonymous said...

Nice review.
I don't know if you're into coffee shops, but Utopia Cafe (on the outside of The Royals) might be worth a looksee/post. Cute successful independent place (though probably not as classy as this spot!). Hope you like it!

Dan said...

Booksandbakes - I'm not familiar with the Utopia Cafe - next time Im in Southend I'll pop in for a look. Thanks for the suggestion.

Anonymous said...

had breakfast this morning, great setting and a huge improvement since it was a greasy spoon several years ago.
But despute the fact that there were only six customers when we wer there it took 45 minutes for our food to arrive! This could've been tolerable if it had been warm and as ordered. My breakfast was warm but not hot and did not have beans - my wife's breakfast was a mix of tepid and cold with undercooked eggs and cold mushrooms - very, very disappointing.
Staff were understanding and discounted my wife's breakfast but there is no excuse for taking so long or the fact that the food was presented so poorly and manner. will never go again (back to toulouse for the best breakfast in town, much better quality, exemplary service and price proprtionate to quality and service).

Dan said...

Thanks for the response anonymous. Sorry to hear that you and your wife had such a negative experience. It doesn't sound good at all, but having tried neither the breakfast at La Petite Petanque or Toulouse, It's a bit hard to comment. I'll need to get back down there soon for a another try, and check out the breakfast at Toulouse as well. (Thanks for the tip).

In other news....
On a not entirely unrelated subject, as it concerns Southend and Utopia Cafe in Southend was suggested in the comments.

I've since been there a couple of times recently, and wow - amazing coffee. They actually roast their own beans inside the shop! The outside is a bit non-descript so it's easy to stroll past, but step inside and the coffee is seriously good. It's quite possibly as good as anything I've tried in London, comparing very favourably with Monmouth's. It's so good, in fact that it must be achingly embarrassing for the staff at Costa Coffee a couple of doors down. There's no comparison at all. So, residents and visitors to Southend, I urge you to abandon the overpriced coffee flavoured Bilge water that the high-street chains churn out and visit the Utopia Cafe by The Royals instead. Where a real artist is at work.

Anonymous said...

My friends live nearby and we went along to La Petite for lunch one Saturday in September 09 and I was bowled (no pun intended) over by the awesome setting, fabulous food and lovely staff! The sun was out in all it's glory too and just made it a perfect afternoon for us. I can't wait to return!
Gail Muschamp x
A real foodie, albeit a very fussy one!

Anonymous said...

Sunny, Sunday morning breakfast with the FREE paper provided (Times...but you can't have everything!). Eggs Benedict (freshly made Hollandaise and a warm plate which is a nice touch as I hate it when yolk and sauce get cold so quickly on a cold plate :) ) and a great Americano next to the blazing log stove. Good vibe. Not very busy (which suited me) but will get busier as the word gets out. If you want to escape the hoi polloi and chill out for an hour you could do a lot worse than here. Have had the home-made scotch egg (which came with creamy home-made coleslaw , rocket salad and hand-cooked vegetable chips) at lunch. Really v good. Not too much to blow you out but plenty of tast and a great combination of flavours. Really so different from most of Southend's limited gastronomic offerings. TONS of atmosphere. Highly recomemnded for a try-out at least

Matt Crew said...

I'm just finishing the website. Take a look lapetitepetanque co uk

Anonymous said...

I just called, to find out if they served afternoon tea and was surprised they don't, surely this would be the perfect setting.

Can anyone recommend anywhere else with an outdoor area that does?

Anonymous said...

Hey Matt Crew

They open 9am on Sundays.

Anonymous said...

It's a really pretty little restaurant/cafe and the food was very nice. The problem for us was, it's just too noisy to be a romantic setting for couples or somewhere you can go for a natter with friends. I went with my boyfriend but there was a family with kids who were running completely amok in the outside space. I'll remember to go back when I have my own kids as it's somewhere that is very, very child friendly. I suppose it is brilliant if you do have a family as you are restricted and that's just what the place will be geared for at weekends. Maybe next time my boyfriend and I are off on a school day we'll go again but there are other places to go Saturday and Sunday that have a less kids playground atmosphere!.