In the heart of a suburban high street, a smart and solidly professional Gallic brasserie from the Malcolm John stable; it’s undoubtedly a useful local rendezvous, but its rather chain-like quality makes it difficult to recommend as any sort of ‘destination’.
Malcolm John is quite a mover and shaker in the SW suburbs. The aim seems to that from Chiswick (Le Vacherin) to Croydon (Le Cassoulet and Fish & Grill), you should never be far from Gallic dining, John-style
Having not ventured into any of his restaurants for quite a while, we had no particular preconceptions about his latest venture, situated on Sutton’s main street, a hundred yards from the railway station.
The initial impression is certainly favourable. This is a large and comfortable space, done out in a style which it’s hard to dismiss as ‘suburban’. Service is good too, if not remotely Gallic.
Such a reservation, however, could not be applied to the long menu, which is as straight-down-the-line as you could ever hope to find. Boudin blanc with apple, onion soup, steak/frites, crème caramel’ – all these perennials figured in our meal.
Indeed, if there is a criticism of Mr John’s venture – and we’re afraid there is – it is that the food is all just a bit too much ‘straight from Central Casting’. There is no sign at all of creativity, and still less of any élan.
That’s not to say the dishes are disappointing. (With the qualification, however, that regular readers will know our views on your typical baguette londonienne, and the one here is certainly no better than average.) Certain items, however – such as steak, and crème caramel – were done well.
In the end, however, the feeling that the operation is run ‘by numbers’ would not quite go away. The feel is ‘chain’: a solid chain-in-the-making, perhaps, but a chain nonetheless.