Le Cafe Anglais

8 Porchester Gardens, London, England, W2 4YN, United Kingdom

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Below are notes from a meal in December 2008.

This latest meal was a more consistent experience than the one that I had during the soft opening, as indeed one might expect. I find the room very attractive, with its art deco style lights and clever layout, and the menu is as wide and appealing as ever. It is heartening to see such a wide range of attractive dishes, printed on a huge card, reminding me of the menus of Marco’s places in their heyday, such as the old Mirabelle. On this weekday night this huge place was pretty much full, which is a testament to its appeal.

I had a much better tasting version of eel and bacon salad than last time, which had a particularly tasty piece of eel, but the little pieces of bacon (I suspect pancetta rather than English bacon) were also excellent, the salad lightly dressed with a better made dressing than last time (15/20). A little hor d’oeuvres of herring and potato salad had particularly impressive herrings, which are so often disappointing in the UK (16/20 for the herring). A “little Caesar” salad was also capable, with fresh lettuce nice dressing, good croutons and Parmesan (15/20). 

Mackerel fillets were enjoyable, served with pine nuts, rosemary and apple sauce (14/20). A grouse was served whole, offered with game chips (i.e. potato crisps) bread chips and gravy. The grouse was nicely cooked and had good gamey taste, and I was particularly impressed with the very thin and light game chips. The gravy was a little thin, but this was still a very enjoyable dish (15/20). Gratin dauphinoise as a side dish was quite well made, a little more liquid than I would ideally like (14/20) while spinach was good; the only let down was in with a bland red cabbage. For me the best way to enliven red cabbage is with a little sweet and sour effect from vinegar and diced apples, as without this it can be a dull tasting dish, as it was here (12/20). 

Desserts did not quite sustain the same standard. Pear Belle Helene had ripe pears with chocolate sauce on a bed of vanilla ice cream and was very pleasant (14/20) but sherry trifle did not work out so well. I’m not sure the crystallised violets add anything, and while there was a decent slug of sherry, there should be more sponge, fruit and custard where here there was mostly cream (just about 13/20). Overall this seemed to me on the border between 14/20 and 15/20 cooking, but I'll give it the benefit of the doubt.

The bill was £80 a head with a £40 bottle of wine and one pre-dinner drink. Prices are not excessive but creep up higher than you might expect since vegetables are extra and there is even a ludicrous £1.50 “cover charge”, something I find entirely cynical. Service was, to be honest, pretty inept. Our perfectly pleasant waitress hardly spoke any English, was barely able to open a bottle of wine, slopped an absurd amount of wine into our glasses when she finally figured out how to use the corkscrew, though fortunately she left well alone after the initial pour. She happily left our finished plates on the table for minutes while she laid an empty table nearby, oblivious to any attempt to get her attention. The epitaph on her tombstone should be: “God finally caught her eye”.

Further reviews: 27th Jan 2014 | 01st Aug 2009 | 01st Nov 2007

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