Bistro K is the re-launch of the late lamented Ambassade de l’Ile. It cooks bistro food, and the décor has been simplified accordingly: there is a wooden floor instead of the shag-pile carpet and wooden wall panels instead of white leather ones. The menu had the range of dishes that one might expect, though prices in the evening are far from bistro level. To be fair there was a £20.20 three course lunch menu, and a £25.10 three course early dinner menu (up to 19:30), but in general starters were around £14 or so, with main courses ranging from £13.55 to £27.55, with vegetables extra at a painful £4.85 each; desserts were £5.90 - £8.95. A sous chef at the original Ambassade de l’Ile (and previously with Galvin at Windows), Armand Sablon, is now head chef here, and since he can cook well that was a wise choice.
The wine list was quite short and exclusively French, starting at £23 but rising swiftly upwards. Examples include Bernard Haas Gewürztraminer 2005 at £40 for a wine that costs around £16 retail. There was some fair value to be found in the champagnes, with Bollinger Special Cuvee £60 compared to a retail price of around £25 or so, while for the local investment banking community there was the divine Salon 1982 at £720 for a wine that costs £438 in the shops. For me the wine list could benefit from a wider selection, and needs more than just a handful of choices under £40.
There were no nibbles, but some very good bread rolls, a mix of green olive bread and baguette, served warm. This was bought in from the Brie d’Or bakery, and the olive bread in particular was excellent (15/20). Celeriac velouté had reasonable depth of flavour and was properly seasoned, but was lukewarm when it arrived, and was a surprisingly small portion (14/20). Better was foie gras torchon (foie gras that has been marinated then poached and allowed to cool). This was properly de-veined, and had plenty of liver flavour, served with properly toasted brioche and quince marmalade (16/20).
For main course, my fillet of Scottish beef was pleasant though the meat itself could have had more flavour, cooked to order and served on a bed of spinach, along with decent thin (bought in) chips, and bearnaise sauce that was properly made but was stone cold (13/20). Sea bass with pumpkin puree was well timed, (14/20) with very good French beans cooked with garlic (15/20).
For dessert, ginger crème brulee tasted nicely of ginger and was correctly made (14/20), but an apple tatin again suffered from being not quite hot, though the pastry was fine and the apples were properly caramelised (13/20). Service was rather sloppy. The wine glass I was presented with was badly smeared, and despite a fairly quiet night it was not always easy to get attention.
Overall, the food is good, temperature issues aside. The problem is the pricing, which is way too high for bistro style food. I fear that this place will struggle unless they rethink their customer offer: either prepare serious restaurant food and charge accordingly (admittedly this did not work previously) or serve bistro food at bistro prices. At present there is good bistro food at Michelin star prices, and I don’t think that will work.