This restaurant was opened by Henry Harris and Dave Strauss in November 2022, modelled on the bouchons of Lyon. It is set upstairs above the Three Compasses bar, near the old Smithfield Market. Henry Harris was the founder of Racine in Knightsbridge, a well regarded French restaurant that dated back to 2002 and closed in early 2015. He went on to set up The Crown in Chiswick. Dave Strauss was operations director at the steakhouse group Goodman for a decade and then moved to the Rockfish group until mid 2022. Head chef at Bouchon Racine is Chris Handley, who was head chef at the original Racine.
The menu appears on a large blackboard and ticks all the brasserie boxes: oysters, steak tartare, rack of lamb, rabbit with mustard sauce and bacon. The wine list started at £31.30 and included labels such as Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie Chateau de Coing de St Fiacre 2021 at £39.80 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £14, Bruno Sorg Pinot Noir 2021 at £47.70 compared to its retail price of £20, and Turley Wine Cellars Old Vines Zinfandel 2019 at £84.80 for a bottle that will set you back £37 in a shop. There were a few posher offerings too, such as Chateau Nenin 2005 from Pomerol at £260 compared to its retail price of £95, and Jean Louis Chave Hermitage 2011 at £556.80 for a bottle whose current market value is £371.
Chicken liver pate (£9.50) was a generous hunk of pate with a bread roll and some cornichons, which provided a bit of bite to balance the richness of the liver. This was a simple but very enjoyable dish, the texture coarser that it would be in a fine-dining restaurant, but with every bit as much flavour (14/20).
Cote de bouef (£47.50 each to share) was Galloway beef aged 45 days and supplied by butcher HG Walter. This had excellent flavour and was cooked medium rare, the meat tender. Chips and a simple frisee lettuce salad on the side went well with the nicely made bearnaise sauce that accompanied the beef (14/20).
Green mandarins (£9.50) were unripe mandarin oranges that had a pleasing mix of tartness and inherent sweetness, flavoured with velours de poire liquor (13/20). Service was very good throughout. Coffee is from Lavazza, an industrial coffee supplier. As it happens, there a couple of classy speciality coffee shops nearby should you wish to try something more ambitious.
The bill came to £90 a head, which is probably reasonably representative if you had three courses, avoided premium items and shared a modest bottle of wine. Overall, Bouchon Racine was a very enjoyable experience, using good quality ingredients in a relaxed environment, and above all serving dishes that most people actually want to eat. There is no attempt here to push culinary boundaries to show how clever the chef is, and for that we can all be grateful. This is a place that should prosper.