Chez Kristof closed in January 2011. It will not be missed by me.
Chef Kristof is a large French-style bistro in the somewhat implausible setting of the optimistically named Hammersmith Grove, between Goldhawk Road and Hammersmith tubes. The expansive dining room has wooden floors, paper tablecloths and plain walls amidst remarkably murky lighting. To read the menu you either need a sunny lunch-time or a torch. This was an admittedly very quiet night, a Monday in the Christmas to New Year graveyard time, but there were just a few diners to keep the two waiters occupied.
The menu was appealing and lengthy, with bistro classic starters at £4.50 - £7.50, mains at £14.50 - £17.50, vegetables at £3.50 and desserts at £5.50. The wine list stretched over four pages and was entirely French, starting at £15.50. Rully Gassmann Riesling 2004 is £28.50 for a wine you can buy for just under £12, Charbonniere Chateauneuf du Pape 2006 is £46 for a wine that costs about £17 in the shops, while 2004 Les Amieres Domaine Garange l’Herault is £37 for a wine that will set you back perhaps £20 retail.
Bread was from the basic Boulangerie du France franchise, with edible baguette bread and brown bread with cereal (12/20). I began with a tomato and lentil soup on this cold night. Sadly this was more of a French onion soup with a few lentils and carrots added, rather watery and light on seasoning (8/20). Spicy crab with celeriac remoulade was a travesty, the celeriac ribbons hard and tasteless when they should be creamy, the brown crab meat having an unpleasant grainy texture, served with a few salad leaves and some decent toasted sourdough (4/20).
For main course, an iron skillet supposedly containing a hearty vegetable stew merely had some roasted courgettes, chick peas, squash and Jerusalem artichokes in a watery, under-seasoned broth (7/20). Wiener schnitzel is scarcely French but here was served “a la Holstein” with a fried egg, anchovies and caper sauce. A schnitzel should be crisp but this was simply soggy, the anchovies adding a rather odd taste to an otherwise bland dish (8/20). Strangely amongst this culinary road kill, both mash and gratin dauphinoise were perfectly decent (12/20).
Desserts were a sorry affair. A prune and Armagnac ice cream was pretty clearly some bad vanilla ice cream with a few prunes with a little Armagnac poured over the top (8/20). Tarte tatin was a travesty, a dismal reheated concoction with utterly soggy pastry and vanilla ice cream that had no discernable vanilla and was actually crumbly in texture, something that even the culinary alchemists at El Bulli would puzzle over (4/20). We each tried a spoonful and stopped. Our very helpful French waiter simply shrugged and said “the chef is Polish; how could he tell?".
With no pre-dinner drinks, no desserts, no coffee and a mid-priced bottle of wine the bill was still over £50 a head for what was desperately bad food. This is the kind of fake French bistro that I sincerely hope is put out of its misery in the forthcoming recession.