La Buvette (“the bar”) is tucked away in a quiet courtyard near the St Mary Magdelene church in Richmond, just off the main shopping street. In its present from the restaurant has been operating since 2004, serving French food and targeting the local population rather than destination diners. In addition to the a la carte there was also a prix fixe lunch menu at £16.75, of which we took advantage. The dining room is quite cosy, with low ceilings and well-packed tables.
The slightly old-fashioned all-French wine list had 28 wine references plus a port, ranging in price from £19 to £65, with an average markup of just 2.1 times retail price, which is quite fair by London standards. The broadest coverage was of Loire, Languedoc and Burgundy, with five wines from each of these regions. Example labels were Uroulat Jurancon Molleux Domaine Charles Hours2015 at £31.25 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £22, Saint Joseph Blanc Domaine Lionel Faury 2015 at £48.75 compared to its retail price of £26, and Grand Cru Chablis Vaudesir Domaine Christian Moreau Pere et Fils 2013 at £65 for a label that will set you back £53 in a shop. The list could do with modernising but was at least fairly priced.
Terrine of flaked ham came with piccalilli. The terrine was a bit on the rough side of rustic, but it had decent enough flavour and the piccalilli was a pleasant accompaniment, the pickle cutting through the richness of the terrine (12/20). Roast cauliflower came with spiced diced potato, dhal and mustard seeds with a cucumber salad. The dhal didn’t have the range of spices you might expect from a version of this dish in an Indian restaurant, but it had quite good texture, and the cauliflower was very good, being nicely cooked and working well with the gentle spices (13/20).
Kalamansi sorbet had smooth texture and plenty of fruit flavour, quite sharp but not excessively so (13/20). A kalamansi is a cross between a tangerine and a kumquat, cultivated in the Philippines and elsewhere. Alternatively you could have some cheese, today being a Brie. Coffee was from a company called Mocha Arabica and was decent. Service was functional and effective, and the bill came to £33 including some glasses of quite acceptable Cotes du Rhone Grenache. If you went a la carte and shared a modest bottle of wine plus coffee then a realistic price per person might be around £50. Overall La Buvette is a pleasant neighbourhood restaurant. It is not aiming for culinary fireworks but it has a quite appealing menu that is not too ambitious. It may not be destination dining, but is a nice enough place to eat at if you are in the area.
Further reviews: 26th Aug 2010