Casse Croute

109 Bermondsey Street, London, SE1 3XB, United Kingdom

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Casse Croute (a “light meal” in French, though I presume this is intended to be ironic) opened in July 2013 in Bermondsey Street, a ten minute walk from London Bridge station. It is a compact dining room with around twenty covers, with tables crammed together and a daily changing menu of bistro dishes displayed on a blackboard. The menu descriptions are in French but the waitress happily translated this where necessary.

Casse Croute is very French indeed, and this extends to their all-French wine list. They have a reasonable £25 corkage fee but, and I am not kidding, this is only for French wine. No pesky foreign wines may pass the drawbridge of the premises. “I would rather cancel your reservation than allow a foreign wine” was the explanation when I asked about this. The list itself had just 20 labels plus a few extra on a blackboard, and ranged in price from £30 to £88, with a median price of £50 and an average markup to retail price of 3.2 times, which is not cheap but neither is it excessive in London these days. Sample references were Picpoul de Pinet Chateau de la Mirande 2022 at £33 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £12, Bourgueil Impetueuse Bertrand Galbrun (from Loire) 2020 at £51 compared to its retail price of £12, and Château Dauphiné Rondillon Loupiac 2009 at £69 for a wine that will set you back £34 in the high street.

Mackerel was cooked well but they left the outer membrane on the fish, which was rather a rustic approach. However, the white wine sauce with it was nicely acidic to balance the oily dish and it came with carrots and potatoes to bring some earthy contrast. This was a simple but enjoyable dish (13/20).

Ravioli with calf sweetbread and chanterelles was the best dish. A trio of large ravioli had good texture, accompanied by pine nuts and salad leaves. The sweetbreads inside the pasta had lovely flavour and the earthiness of the mushrooms provided balance to the richness. This was a very large portion for what was notionally a starter, and indeed the portion sizes through the meal were very generous (14/20).

“Coquelet diable” was poussin pieces fried in breadcrumbs and served with salad leaves and Duchess potatoes (mash potatoes with cream, eggs and a little cheese, piped into a swirl and browned in the oven). This was enjoyable, the potatoes very good but the chicken being just a little overcooked and dry (13/20). 

A quartet of cheeses were offered. There was Fourme D’Ambert, the blue cheese from Auvergne in the heart of France, Langres, a strong soft cow milk cheese from Champagne-Ardenne in the north of the country, Coulommieres, a soft cow’s milk cheese from Lorraine in the north east of France and finally Cantal, a hard cheese from Auvergne. These were all good cheeses but suffered from being fridge cold when served, which is a fairly basic error for a French restaurant. 

Usually, desserts are a strength of French cuisine, but sadly that was not the case today. Lemon meringue had good pastry but not enough lemon sharpness (12/20). Rhubarb choux similarly had decent choux pastry but nowhere near enough rhubarb, so you mainly tasted pastry rather than fruit (12/20). 

Service was pleasant, and although wine topping up was non-existent this is a simple restaurant so was not really to be expected. The bill came to £106 each with corkage but this was with an extra course plus cheese. If you had three courses and shared a modest bottle of wine then a typical cost per person might be around £85 or so. Casse Croute delivers some very well made savoury French dishes in a lively atmosphere with a distinctly Gallic feel to the service.

Further reviews: 17th Oct 2013

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