One of the good things of staying in the South Kensington area is that there are many restaurants to choose from, all within easy walking distance. La Bouchée is a typical French bistro that serves up traditionally French fare like coq au vin and gigot d’agneau. The chefs and managers are all French, so you’re getting the real deal.
Two drawbacks stand out in particular though. First, the place is tiny, seating a maximum of twenty patrons, so a reservation is imperative, unless you dine early or alone. Second, for a bistro, La Bouchée charges restaurant prices, including the ubiquitous 12.5% ‘discretionary’ gratuity. They offer a prix fixe two-course menu for 11.50 pounds, which is probably the best value you’ll get, but only until 6.30pm, and they can be quite anal about this; refusing to offer it to me even though I was there at 6.27pm.
I chose the starter of the day, ris d’agneau, brioche, sauce champignons, lamb sweetbreads in a rich mushroom sauce, served with two pieces of brioche. Luscious and decadent, the sauce was concentrated and bursting with an earthy flavour, but also enriched with a very meaty aroma – possibly some marrow. The sweetbreads themselves were soft, slightly chewy, and went well with the sweet, airy brioche.
Coq au vin was the cheapest thing on the menu, but still pretty pricey at 13.50 pounds, and for that price, I was disappointed with what I received. While it arrived in a Staub casserole, keeping the dish piping hot and allowing the flavours to develop, the portion of chicken was quite minute, and the lack of any accompaniments like potatoes or noodles was striking. The sauce was full-bodied and fortified with the traditional red wine, but beyond that, I didn’t think much of the dish. It seemed like something you could easily find back in Singapore or even replicate, with some care, in your own kitchen, for a fraction of the price.
La Bouchée (French)
56 Old Brompton Road, South Kensington, SW7
Tel: 020 7589 1929
Overall: Go for the prix fixe menu