From part of the team that built Strada, the Wimbledon prototype of a Gallic bistro chain; unlike most press reviewers, we found standards generally unimpressive.
ne of the big fears of the restaurant critical world is just not ‘getting’ it. You go along to a place that’s been unanimously well reviewed – in respectable publications as diverse as Time Out and the FT – and you just can’t see what all the fuss is about. Well, this is just such a place. In fact, we couldn’t see why this new Wimbledon bistro was causing any excitement at all.
It can’t be the décor. The local friends with whom we dined told us that – quite sensibly, for a less-expensive place – the new régime had spent little money on improving the (rather suburban, low-ceilinged and noisy) interior bequeathed by the previous régime. Forget candlelit charm: this is not a place for a romantic date.
Service, too, was unremarkable – friendly and trying hard, undoubtedly, but often not there when you wanted them. No reason not to go, but no reason to go either.
So it must be the food? Unfortunately, we’d have to perjure ourselves to say we found anything worthy of a glowing write-up. The aim is Gallic bistro classics. Bread was OK, but not your proper baguette – can that really be so hard to find? – and you had to ask for it. A terrine was fine but… well just fine really, and would have benefitted from some toast to go with it. A savoury pancake seemed to have ‘sat’ at the pass. Chips were crisp but not tasting of much. A chocolate mousse looked unappetising… which proved to be the case. Only the steak-eaters in the party seemed to have anything to crow about.
On our visit, then, this is no more than a potentially handy place, perhaps worth considering if you should find yourself in the area. Its management, however, is largely drawn from the people who created and grew the Strada concept (prior to its sale by Richard Caring earlier this year), so it would be surprising if the first of the Côtes is also the last.