Editor's note. In November 2011 the premises was sold to Jamie Oliver, who launched a restaurant called Union Jacks on this site in 2012. The notes below are of historical interest only.
Villandry (now rebranded the French Kicthen) has long been established as a deli and lunch venue in Marylebone, but a few weeks ago it opened a branch on my doorstep in Chiswick. There is deli produce for sale here, but the emphasis is more on the restaurant and less on the shop compared to the Marylebone branch. The upstairs, where the kitchen is placed, is dedicated entirely to dining tables, as is much of the ground floor.
The menu is bistro style, and has starters ranging from £4.40 - £8.95, main courses from £7.95 - £14.50, vegetables at just under £3 and desserts £4.60 - £5.90. The short French wine list (I know this is aiming to be a bistro but entirely French wines, really? - this is 2010 after all) starts at £13.95 and only goes as high as £24.95. The list goes to the trouble of noting the alcohol content of each wine but does not list any pesky details like the vintages. The pleasant Caves de Ribeauville Pinot Gris was listed at £19.95 compared to a retail price of around £11, Mahon-Laville Bordeaux Superieur was £22.50 for a wine that costs about £9 or so retail, and Boisset Bourgogne Pinot Noir was £24.95 for a wine that will set you back around a tenner in the shops. Breads are from the Bread Factory, which is a particularly good supplier (they used to supply the Fat Duck). Plain slices were fine, but I really enjoyed the walnut and raisin bread: this had excellent texture and was properly seasoned (15/20 bread, more for the walnut and raisin bread).
A French onion soup was simple but properly made and seasoned (12/20), while I began with leek and gruyere tart and a side salad. The tart was slightly singed on the edge, but otherwise was fine, the pastry pleasant, the gruyere flavour coming through without overwhelming things (13/20). Sea bream was correctly cooked, with a crisp skin and moist, fully cooked through flesh (13/20). Matchstick chips were crisp and properly salted (13/20). I tried macaroni cheese gratin flavoured with bacon, which I have to say was very pleasant. The only issue was that the side salad had a dressing that was much too acidic (still 13/20).
A tarte tatin was again properly made, cooked a fraction long for my taste but properly caramelised, though the bought-in ice cream lacked sufficient vanilla flavour (13/20 for the tart). Apricot and almond tart also had good flavour, though the reheating had rendered the pastry a bit soggy (still 13/20). Service was variable. The greeting as we entered was poor, with someone who barely spoke a word of English initially unable to find the reservation, followed by an abrupt “follow me” and a rapid exit up the stairs. However one of the waiters we encountered (that rarity, an English waiter; well, he had studied drama so what can you expect) was very nice indeed. The bill, for three courses, wine and coffee, came to just £45 each. I was pleasantly surprised by the food here, as I had expected something more cynically money-making and less capable. Yet the dishes were executed quite well and prices were quite low.