Sunday, 17 January 2010

Le Cafe Anglais - London

Le Cafe Anglais has been on my restaurant hit-list for quite some time. Mention the barest hint of it on twitter and you can't move for tripping over people raving about it, in particular the Parmesan custard with anchovy toast dish or the rotisserie cooked label anglais chickens. In addition the chef, Rowley Leigh is also something of a legend within foodie circles.

I'd taken this all in, watched and waited.......and, just before Christmas with my incredibly ill-timed birthday fast approaching, when the GF asked where I wanted to go, her treat.....lunch at Le Cafe Anglais was my response.

Making our way to the upper level in Bayswater's rather lovely Whiteley's shopping center, where "LCA" is located, and entering the restaurant for the first time...I couldn't help but be instantly charmed with the fabulous Art Deco interior. It's a favourite period of mine when it comes to interior-design and LCA is without a doubt drop dead gorgeous. It's grand, sweeping, high ceilinged, beautifully light and airy with huge windows lining one side of the dining room. It's a looker and almost impossible to believe that this space once hosted a McDonalds.

Taking our seats and admiring the bustling and packed restaurant, we studied the menu - which is interesting as the Hors D'Oeuvres section is unusual and has been much discussed among food bloggers. Deciding to order a selection, we went for a now famous Parmesan custard and Anchovy toast each, some Salsify fritters and on the waiters recommendation, oyster fritters which came with a Thai dipping sauce.

Our order came quickly, our table quickly filling with small plates... But I really only had eyes for the Parmesan custard and anchovy toast...I've heard it talked about so often, and couldn't wait to try it. Dipping a toast into the rich Parmesan custard and taking a bite....well, there's much talk about the savoury taste 'umami' - this dish has it in spades. Rich, seriously cheesy and seriously fishy, It's unusual that's for sure, but it works and it's very moreish.

The salsify fritters on the other hand, to me at least were pretty tasteless, despite the batter being lovely and crisp, the proffered mayonnaise seemingly overwhelming any flavour they had completely.

The Oyster Fritters were much more successful, the same beautifully crisp batter surrounding a meaty oyster, with the thai dipping sauce pungent with lemongrass working well. I liked these a lot.

Onto the Mains, and I decided to order Partridge Choucroute, with Franks, Ventreche and Morteau. (Save you Googling it - I had to.....'Ventreche' being French unsmoked Bacon, and 'Morteau' - a type of smoked sausage from the Morteau region of France). The GF went for Chicken Leg from the rotisserie, which came with wild mushrooms and a side order of Gratin Dauphinois.

To Drink, on the sommeliers advice we ordered a bottle of Austrian Nittnaus Pinot Noir 2004 Burgenland, Chicken and Partridge being somewhat challenging to match within one bottle. It was pretty nice, easily drinkable - I liked it and it did seem to go extremely well with the dishes we ordered.

My Partridge arrived, and straight away I must confess to being something of a game novice. It's the first time I've eaten Partridge...and If I'm honest, I didn't dislike it....but I didn't like it that much either. The plate of food was heavy, the partridge quite dry... It was OK, but I felt like I'd made a bad choice from the menu, especially eyeing some of the dishes waiters were floating past to other tables. I hold my hands up, I have no comparison to make, as it's not something I've eaten could have been the best Partridge this side of Europe...but it just didn't do it for me I'm afraid.

The GF's plate of Chicken and Mushroom was more successful, and incredibly cheap - chicken legs being one of the tastier but less appreciated parts of the bird. Although once again, I got the distinct impression from the GF that she wished she'd chosen a bit more wisely.

Plates whisked away, and the GF declining a dessert - I went for a 'Queen of Puddings' - a very traditional British lemon and raspberry flavoured jam dessert topped with meringue. All I can say about this is, it was gorgeous. No complaints at all.

Paying up and leaving the beautiful Le Cafe Anglais dining room behind, I thought about the meal I'd just ate. The Hors D'Oeuvres were fantastic, the Parmesan custard - anchovy toast dish in particular living upto its star billing. The mains - not so great. But I think the lack of main course enjoyment had a lot more to do with bad menu decisions on mine and the GF's part, than badly executed food. The Dessert I had, as previously mentioned - lovely.

I would like to go back and try again.....give LCA another go. It certainly is a beautiful restaurant and a real experience. It's just feels like a personal disappointment as I was so looking forward to this and I wanted to love it. But, on this occasion, sadly my main just didn't work out for me. Next time hopefully, I will be a bit more fortuitous with my menu selection!

Le Café Anglais
8 Porchester Gardens
W2 4DB
tel: 020 7221 1415


Gastro1 said...

Great post I really do think you should revist LCF the menu is fairly extensive and changing daily specials are often outstanding.

Dan said...

Gatro1 - Thank you. I shall re-visit. I know yourself and many other foodies who's opinions I respect have nothing but good things to say about LCA. I feel like somehow I didn't get the full value experience. I'll have to give it another try.

Kavey said...

It's been one of the ones I've shortlisted for our lunches out during our time off... great review!

Erin said...

I've been for Sunday lunch and had a terrific roast - might be worth a Sunday visit? They also do some scrabble parties that sound intriguing...

Graphic Foodie said...

Hate it when expectations are dashed. Good that you're going to give it another punt though because the food looks very nice indeed.

Browners said...

What a shame. Partridge can be tough and dry. You can never tell until you tuck in really. That's the enigmatic beauty of game. Two birds cooked the same way can be divine and dreadful.

Glad to hear the anchovy toast and parmesan custard is still a roaring success.

Helen said...

I agree with Browners on the game. Partridge can be delish so I'd suggest having a go at cooking it at home. I did a couple recently and they came out really well. Pretty cheap too! I still haven't made to LCA. I feel like the only person alive who hasn't eaten the parmesan custard with anchovy toasts.

Dan said...

Kavey - Thanks :)

Erin - strangely enough, I did go on a Sunday Lunch....but I didn't have the roast...schoolboy error it seems.

Fran - The Restauarant and most of the food was cracking....just my choice of main a letdown

Browners - See, there speaks a man who knows his game. I haven't eaten enough of it to comment knowledgebly - but it does seem that I the Partridge lottery of life been lumbered wth a tough and dry one.

Helen - I think thats a great idea, I need to try cooking more game at home...I feel quite out of me depth as I haven't eaten that much of it to be honest.
Parmesan custard and anchovy toast - felt the same way to me....glad I'm not the only one to come late to the cheesy custard-anchovy party hahaha

Unknown said...

I had a similar experience to you when I went - loved the parmesan custard (on Browners suggestion), my dessert was sensational, but my choice of main seemed to let it down. I too want to return, and as hubby has yet to go I must make this happen soon.

The Ample Cook said...

Ah, that's a shame about your main courses. I must admit Dan I'd have been a bit disappointed too if I'd ordered the partridge dish - doesn't look hugely appetising.

I'm loving your restaurant reviews as your list is very similar to the ones I'd like to try. Difference is I don't make as much of an effort :) Well done you.

Where you off to next?

Greedy Diva said...

Is it just me, or does that sausage on top of the partridge look quite amusing?

Unknown said...

Imaginative hors d'oeuvres, I agree. I found the same with the mains, a bit hit and miss. Such a shame, but don't give up! I've found anything from the grill is fabulous.

Dan said...

Kanga_Rue - interesting that you had the same experience.

Jan - Thanks :) Glad you like the restaurant meal I'm attending is the Blokes eat Beef thing at Goodmans which should be cracking. The next actual meal I've booked is The Sportsman in Whistable at the end of Feb :)

GreedyDiva - hahaha no - its not just you!

Laura - Interesting that you also found the mains a bit hit and miss....but anything from the Grill, I'll bear that in mind for when I re-visit. Thanks for the tip!

goodshoeday said...

Gosh I didn't realise it was in the Whiteley's building that sort of makes it more and yet less appealing at the same time :S
Shame the main course didn't perform but the rest of it sounds excellent. you should definitely try cooking some game at home they you'll be better able to judge when yo eat out. Browners and Helen are right though one lot can be amazing another lot tough as old boots.

Laissez Fare said...

Interesting review Dan. Recently went there and will hopefully be writing about it soon. My friend (who loves game) had your partridge dish & loved it & wouldn't let me taste it - he is much more manly than I am in that sense :). I had the same dessert you did and loved it too. You have to love the decor and layout of the place - brilliantly conceived and executed.



PS - I guess I may see you tomorrow at the B-Festival

Hollow Legs said...

I really liked Le Cafe Anglais, but like you I wasn't blown away by the mains and much preferred the starters and Hors D'Oeuvres - the next meal I have there will be made up of these.

Dan said...

Goodshoeday - Thanks. More game cooked at home is on the cards for 2010.

Laissez Fare - Interesting that your friend had the exact same dish and loved it. It is a great looking and concieved restaurant I agree.
Yep - I'll look out for you at the B-Festival tomorrow :)

Lizzie - Its interesting as so many people have said the same thing to me. Starters and Hors D'oeuvres - amazing. Mains not so great.