Editor's note: chef Ollie Couillard left in February 2014.
I have eaten a lot of meals cooked by Ollie Couillaud over the years, from the early days of La Trompette, to the opening of Tom’s Kitchen, through to the ill-fated Bord’eaux. He has opened a lot of restaurants but now appears to have settled down in Wimbledon at the Lawn Bistro. The restaurant opened in September 2011. Its dining room is long and narrow, with wooden floor, low ceilng, bare tables and banquette seating, allowing 70 diners at full capacity. Three courses were priced at £34.50 for dinner, the menu firmly in bistro territory, but with a few unusual dishes, such as a revival of basked Alaska.
The wine list had just over 100 wines ranging in price from £17 to £165, with an average price of £35 and an average mark-up level of 2.7 times retail price. Example wines were 2010 Riesling Reserve Vignobles from André Scherer in Alsace at £24.00 for a wine that retails at £8, the enjoyable 2009 Chardonnay from Rochioli Vineyards in Russian River, Sonoma at £60 for a wine that costs £30 to buy in a shop, and 2001 Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru Vallet Freres at £100 for a wine that will set you back £48 to purchase in the high street. Water was £3.80 a bottle.
Bread was bought in from Flour Power, with three choices: granary roll, rosemary and olive oil roll or seeded roll with apricot and walnuts. The latter was the best of these, but in general the breads were competent but lacked much flavour (13/20). Apparently there are plans to invest a local bakery, so the bread situation may soon improve. If you are going to buy in bread, then you can do better e,g, by using Boulangerie de Paris.
An amuse-bouche was a cup of cream and hazelnut soup with smoked haddock and parsley. This had good flavour and was well-seasoned, with a single piece of haddock at the bottom of the cup (14/20). My starter was terrine de compagne with foie gras, served with onion marmalade, cornichons and toast. The terrine was very good, with a slightly coarse texture but plenty of flavour, the marmalade a good match and the cornichons adding balance (15/20). Also good was a salad of kohlrabi, apple and radish with blue cheese and walnuts. There were a lot of strong flavours here, but the apple provided enough acidity to cut through the richness of the cheese (14/20).
Guinea fowl breast was served on a bed of puy lentils, smoked bacon and root vegetables, with a little salsa verde on the side. The guinea fowl was cooked well and was moist, but both the puy lentils and the root vegetables were noticeably overcooked (13/20). Tuna with caponata was served for no obvious reason with cold butter bean hummus, and a rather hard olive and chick pea crisp. The tuna was also cooked for too long, just a sliver of pink flesh in the middle of the tuna (12/20). Lemon tart had decent pastry but the filling was over-acidic (still 14/20). Hot apple croustade had reasonably caramelised apples, a decent biscuit base rather than pastry but a pointless cone of filo pastry and tasteless ice cream (13/20). Coffee tasted cheap and bitter.
Service was well-intentioned but not well drilled. Topping up was good, but our main course arrived with a “who ordered the guinea fowl?”, and the table next to us had its three main courses delivered at entirely separate times. The bill came to around £82 a head with a good bottle of wine. Overall this is certainly cooking of a good standard (mostly betrween 13/20 and 14/20) for a local restaurant, and the prices are not excessive. However I know from experience that Ollie (who had a day off today) is capable of better than this. Certain rough edges experienced tonight are easily enough fixed.