In Soho, the second member of a new Gallic bistro chain (brought to you by many of the people who created Strada); it’s a useful enough place, in a chain sort of way, and friendly too, but our visit found the cooking uninspired.
We are getting more and more preoccupied by the bistro question. Why, with so few exceptions, is London – culinary capital of the world, blah, blah – incapable of re-creating the virtues of the simplest sort of Gallic eatery?
Much of the problem seems to be with the most basic food, or rather absence of it. How often do you got into something that looks like your proper Gallic eatery only to be confronted with bread whose appearance, flavour and consistency immediately make clear that you are in anything but? Too often. To win that ultimate Gallic endorsement – ‘très correct’ – a bistro needs to offers bread cut from something resembling a classic baguette, fluffy inside and with a proper golden crust (or if it’s the trendier sort of bistro, perhaps an equally crusty pain de campagne).
But here at this second outlet, in Soho, of a new chain by the former Strada people, you part with your £1.50 – bread is not compris, Ã la franÃ§aise – and you get slices cut from some sort of peculiar sourdough baguette: not only wrong, but in this particular case also dry and uninviting. (And, yes, we do know it’s difficult to get a decent baguette in London, but you can can some pretty good country breads, if you try).
At the bread-disappointment moment, it was tempting to give up, pronounce another failure, and leave. But we persevered. The service, after all, had been very welcoming, and the setting was pleasant enough, And the food – as it turns out – is not so much bad as boring. Our £25-odd (all in) lunch for one comprised, in addition to aforesaid bread, an uninteresting and sludgy soup, an underseasoned and fractionally overcooked steak, some tolerable frites, a decent crème brûlée and a bitter coffee.
Perfectly useful then, pre-theatre or whatever, or for a quick business lunch, but pretty much impossible to recommend as any sort of ‘destination’.