Comptoir Gascon

61 Charterhouse Street, London, England, EC1M 6HJ, United Kingdom

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Comptoir Gascon is the bistro of its Michelin starred neighbour Club Gascon; both serve food from Gascony, so think foie gras and heavy, rich food with lots of flavour. That, at least, was what I was hoping for. The dining room is on the ground floor and simple, with exposed brickwork and small, tightly packed tables. The lighting was murky and the chairs not designed for lingering.

The wine list is mainly based on wines from the south of France, which was in keeping with the theme. Renaissance Rotier 2006 was £33 for a wine whose retail price is around £13 and Cahors Maisonneuve La Fage 2006 Malbec was £44 compared to a shop price of about £19. We drank the excellent Mas de Daumas Gassac 2008 white at £60.50 for a wine that you can find in the shops for about £21 or so.

Crunchy chicory and blue cheese salad (£6) had very good chicory, but raisins that were so hard they were practically inedible; the cheese was fine, but it was not as if the kitchen had really intervened here. Overall 12/20 given the good quality endive. Spicy mackerel and fondant potato (£6/50) featured mackerel that was overwhelmed by a spicy tomato sauce spooned on top of the fish; the mackerel in itself was fine, as were the potatoes, but the mackerel (hardly a shy flavour) was utterly overwhelmed by the tomato paste (11/20).

Scallops with confit fennel and piquillos (£14.50) was disappointing; the scallops themselves were clearly overcooked; not grotesquely so but clearly on the chewy end of the scale (11/20). Cassoulet (£14) of duck had pleasant haricot beans and a sausage that had quite good flavour; seasoning could have been bolder, but overall this was a decent dish, with tender duck (13/20).

On the side, home-made chips were simply soggy (11/20). The best savoury dish that appeared were the greens, garnished with a little lemon, which arrived well after the main course was delivered. The vegetables were actually very good, especially the mange touts, though the French beans were a little under-cooked; still, this was capable cooking (14/20). Although this arrived very late, at least it was generally of a decent standard.

Desserts were better than the savoury dishes. Chocolate cake (£4.50) in itself was good, clearly made with high quality chocolate, though served with a rather bizarre ice cream of blackcurrant and lavender, which was simply odd (13/20 overall, more if they had simply dropped the ice cream). Tarte pommes (£4.50) was nice, with reasonable pastry, properly cooked apples and vanilla ice cream that had pleasant texture and at least some vanilla taste (14/20). Coffee was quite of high quality (14/20).

The service, led by a manager who used to work at Sketch, was very capable given that it was patently understaffed, yet managed very well indeed; dishes arrived promptly, topping up was competent and it was easy to get attention: the two waitresses on this crowded evening were stars. The bill for two (admittedly with a good wine, was £75 each).   As an overall experience, I was disappointed. The desserts were good, but there were several errors in the savoury courses, which is simply not on at this pricing level.


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