See these - perfect lovely scallops. As part of a perfect (pretty much), lovely meal last Friday at Le Cassoulet in Croydon.
Now you might not think Croydon a foodie mecca, but once you head down the high street towards South End, you start to hit a small lacuna of restaurants that are worth more than a quick eyeball through the window and a scurry past. We intend to visit them all, including Albert's Table, highly recommended by your Bookseller, and Fish and Grill, run by Malcolm John, part of a small chain that owns Chiswick's Le Vacherin and Le Cassoulet.
Back to the matter in hand: Le Cassoulet was almost extravagantly wonderful - and this in spite of MCD running the first day of a horrific cold, and even through his extreme discomfort, he loved it. We were also the youngest in there by a good 20 years, which indicates that the older denizens of Croydon know a good thing when they see it.
So glass of house Champagne to start with and a peruse of the menu. LC bills itself as French and I would say leaning towards Alsace, with the extensive - and mostly judicious - use of Alsace bacon throughout. We quibbled over starters: MCD eventually going with scallops with a black pudding raviolo and a little schmear of apple puree; I chose the octopis carpaccio with fennel, orange and caper salad. The scallops were to die for, the raviolo perfectly delicately thin, filled with a slightly spicy French-style boudin noir. My octopus was very firm in the mouth, but not tough - textured is the word - with the salad sprightly and refreshing in all the right ways.
Main courses were tougher. We both leaned towards the chateaubriand, but then we were going to be having an awful lot of cow over the weekend, so MCD went with slow-cooked lamb shoulder with haricot beans and a pomme puree (we will not go into his peculiar obsession with chips at every meal out...). This was delicious, but the little pot of haricot beans and goodies was odlly devoid of beans.... I nearly, so very nearly, went for the confit pork cheek with choucroute, but couldn't match a red wine I fancied with it, so ended up with the most amazing roast partridge. This, dear reader, was a work of art...
Firstly, I was presented with the whole partridge, very much dead but possessed of a bronzed goldenness hiterto unseen in St Tropez. We made our acquaintance most cordially. It was then returned to me with more accessories than a WAG in aforementioned St Tropez. The sauces - 4, count 'em -comprised a brown butter for pouring on first (a first for me too, but duly noted as an excellent idea), a creamy bread sauce, a rowan jelly and a deep red wine jus to flood the plate. Not mentioning the warm game chips, the watercress and the side of epinards a la creme... All fabulous, accompanied by a red from their Natural selection - a Cotes de Jura Pinot Noir - not too heavy as to send you to sleep, but more than a match for the lamb and the game.
Desserts - we're still going - were a bit of an oddity. MCD fancied the poached peach (in September...?) with honeycomb ice cream, which he loved, but which apparently last week had been poached pear, but was now peach... I mused over the cheese trolley, decided it might be a tad too much and plumped for madeleines which came with English strawberries (in September... again...?), which were fabulous, but wanted a sabayon-style accompaniment to be perfect, I think. Un petit Muscat pour encourager les autres and we were just about done.... The bill was incredibly reasonable - for all this glorious bounty, plus water, plus a glass of vin de pays de Gers white with my octopus + tip came to about £160. Not a cheap meal out, but not outrageous.
It's worth noting they offer steak deals in the week as well as 3-course deals, all of which are almost ridiculously reasonable (steak + accompaniments + good glass of red for less than a tenner...?). Go, go now. Just make sure you book, cos we'll be beating you to it.
PS: Don't tell me we aren't lucky to live where we live.... Check out Time Out - Exhibition Rooms and Fish and Grill in 1st and 2nd post...