Eastside Bistro

40 St John Street, London, England, EC1M 4AY, United Kingdom

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Below are notes from a meal in March 2010.

A simple starter of morels on toast was supplemented with an egg yolk that had been injected with chicken jus while still retaining its shape; this is doubtless a fiddly procedure, and to be honest I think the morels stood on their own. They were of high quality, carefully seasoned (14/20). A cauliflower veloute was also well made. My main course was cassoulet, and this was genuinely classy. The beans were tender but still had some texture, the duck confit had lots of flavour, the sausage was good, and the seasoning of the dish was terrific (16/20).

Apple tart was also nice, with good pastry (14/20); a rhubarb Sundae was also excellent, with the rhubarb not too acidic. The only dubious dish of the night was sardines with a broccoli puree, which I am not convinced worked conceptually.

The only other aspect of tonight that detracted was the sloppy service from our waiter. We were eating quite late on a Monday night, so few tables were in operation, yet our French waiter managed several long gaps in his attention span. Our white wine, when it arrived, was warm, so needed time in an ice bucket, yet large glasses were poured from the outset. Shortly afterwards the glasses were further topped up with far too large measures of wine that was still warm. Later, the wine was not topped up at all. In a bistro setting I have no problem if the wine is left on the table so I can pour it myself, but if the wine is taken away out of reach then the topping up needs to be careful, and it was far from that tonight. The service was perfectly friendly, but careless. Below are notes from a meal in October 2009.

Tonight a special of clam chowder was impressive; I have eaten this dish many times in America, and far too often it is a powdery mess. Here the clam flavour came through well and the seasoning was carefully judged (15/20). A salad of raw and roasted beetroot was offered with goat cheese and excellent walnuts, along with a few watercress leaves. The beetroot’s strong flavour was a good match for the goat cheese, and the walnuts were very good indeed (14/20).

For the main course, a tagine dish contained carefully cooked prawns with garlic, flavoured with chilli. The prawns themselves were tender, the garlic flavour strong but not out of control (14/20). I also enjoyed my magret of duck, cooked pink, with peppercorn sauce, spinach and pomme sarladiase. The peppercorn sauce was very well-judged, a strong flavour yet one that did not overwhelm the rest of the dish (15/20).

For dessert, slices of apple pie were pleasant, but it was clear that they were not made fresh; the vanilla ice cream with them was good (13/20). Service was excellent, friendly and efficient. I thoroughly enjoyed the meal tonight.  Above all, flavours were bold and distinct, with strong seasoning. For me this is what bistro food should be. While less sophisticated than the food in the main dining room, I enjoyed this almost as much.

Further reviews: 11th Aug 2010

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