The French Table was established in June 2001, with chef/patron Eric Guignard, who prior to this had worked with Phil Britten at the Capital. The restaurant is in a parade of shops, and has a long, narrow dining room with slate floors and taupe walls. The tables are what an estate agent would describe as “cosy”. The menu had starters mostly around £9, main courses about £18 and desserts at £6.50, with vegetables extra £2.95.
The wine list stretches over seven pages and has fairly broad coverage of countries, though it is organised by style. Turckheim Pinot Blanc 2007 was listed at £26 for a wine that costs around £8 in the shops, Caymus Conondrum 2007 was £42 compared to a retail price of around £20, and the Barolo Riva from Claudio Alario 2004 at £115 for a wine that will set you back about £38 retail. Breads are made from scratch, and this evening consisted of carrot bread, gruyere bread, foccacia and black olive. These were very good, tasting distinctly of what they were supposed to, and being properly seasoned; I particularly liked the gruyere bread (16/20 average).
I began with home-smoked mackerel with beetroot puree and horseradish cream (a declared sesame tuile garnish was missing in action). The colour of the beetroot made for a nice looking dish, but the problem was wth the mackerel, which was shrivelled up and dry. Given that mackerel is an oily fish this was no mean feat, and although the beetroot puree was fine the main element of the dish was not (barley 11/20). Much better was tuna rolled in harissa (a North African spice mix) with a quinoa couscous and diced vegetables, with a soya and sesame oil dressing. The tuna was seared lightly and the dressing was pleasant, though the spices were perhaps unduly subtle (13/20).
For the main course I had sirloin (Angus Heifer) with a gateau of potato and ventreche, a few wild mushrooms and a cep sauce. The beef was nicely cooked, the bacon flavour worked well with the potato and the sauce had reasonable intensity (13/20). Turbot “millefeuille” was actually a piece of turbot garnished with a tempura of aurbergine, with a fish veloute and light curry dressing. The fish itself was cooked properly, but the tempura was greasy, and indeed a pool of oil was visible on the plate under the tower of food. Conceptually, I am not sure about the combination of turbot with aubergine and curry, though the latter was certainly very subtle (12/20). On the side were some worrying looking carrots, which were very overcooked and distinctly limp, as well as having an odd sweetness (10/20). Mash was fine (13/20).
Lemon tart and blueberry sorbet had a tart with good pastry and a well-judged filling, balancing acidity and sweetness nicely; I would perhaps not have selected blueberry as my first choice accompaniment for lemon tart, but this is perhaps a matter of personal taste (14/20). Praline cake with pistachio ice cream was a little over-sweet but enjoyable enough (13/20).
Service was good all evening (headed by the chef's wife Sarah), with the dishes arriving at a steady pace and the waitresses friendly. Overall this is clearly a place that is a cut above the local area and it was clearly very successful in terms of customers, though I was concerned about the couple of technical errors that I encountered. The bill with a mid-priced wine came to £68 per head.
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