This restaurant in Twickenham was opened in 2015 by head chef and owner Gianluca di Monaco. He had worked previously with Pierre Koffmann, and also at Galvin at Windows and The Lanesborough hotel. The restaurant is at the end of a parade of shops, and has a few outside tables in good weather, in addition to those in the main dining room. As well as the a la carte menu there was a set menu available, at £27 for three courses for dinner and £22.50 at lunch.
The wine list had 86 bottles, with 73% from France but also featuring a selection from further afield such as Chile and South Africa. The list ranged in price from £19.50 to £325, with a median price of £45 and an average mark-up of 2.6 times retail price, which is pretty fair by London standards. Sample wines were Bergerac Cuvée des Conti Château Tour des Gendresat 2017 at £32 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £10, Barbera d’Alba Peragal Marchesi di Barolo 2015 at £57 compared to its retail price of £23, and Chablis Grand Cru Vaudesir Domaine Tremblay 2016 at £89 for a wine that will currently set you back £64 in a shop. At the posh end of the list, the lovely Antinori Tignanello 2013 was £170 compared to its retail price of £115, and Batard-Montrachet Domaine Coffinet-Duvernay 2013 was £295 for a bottle whose current market value is £203. There were some good choices of grower, and overall this is a fairly priced wine list that has been put together with care. Corkage was a fairly priced £20 a bottle.
There was no amuse-bouche. I started my meal with hare and truffle pithivier with French bean salad. The pastry was quite delicate, and the beans were nicely cooked. For me the hare (from the supplier Vicars Game in Reading), normally a strong flavour, lacked a bit of punch, and needed stronger seasoning. Despite that, however, the excellent pastry meant that this was still a pleasant dish (13/20). My dining companion tried twice-baked Gruyere cheese souffle laced with summer truffles, which came with pickled vegetables, including cauliflower, on a chicory leaf. The truffles incidentally, were from near Naples. The dish worked very well indeed, the texture light and airy, the scent of the truffles permeating the souffle nicely. I thought that the pickled vegetables on the chicory leaf were a clever touch, as the natural bitterness of the chicory and the sharpness of the pickling juices worked to balance the richness of the souffle (15/20 is probably a mean score).
For the main course I had veal sweetbread with shallot puree as well as shrimp and caper sauce. The shrimps didn’t have a great deal with flavour but were cooked properly, and the bite of the capers balanced the inherent richness of the pleasant if unremarkable sweetbreads (13/20). My companion’s confit duck leg with sweet potato and cherries had good flavour. On the side, gratin dauphinoise was excellent, having good texture and plenty of flavour, while haricot verts were carefully cooked.
A selection of cheeses from local shop Teddington Cheese was in good condition, served with some bread. The cheeses served were Livarot, Epoisses, Valençay, Gaperon and Roquefort. For dessert, strawberry cheesecake had a pleasant biscuit base and reasonable quality fruit (13/20). I also tasted my companion’s chocolate fondant, which had a suitably liquid centre and came with good amaretto ice cream. Chocolate fondant, a dish invented by three star Michelin chef Michel Bras in 1981 (he called it chocolate coulant), can be a tricky thing to pull off successfully, but worked well here (comfortably 14/20).
Coffee was from a Italian commercial roaster called Mokarabia whose UK distrubition centre happens to be in Twickenham, and it was drinkable but on the bitter side. It came with some nice macarons made by Giovanna Temboni, a friend of the chef. Service was friendly. The bill came to £111 per person with plenty of wine to drink. If you stuck to three courses and shared a modest bottle of wine then a more typical cost per person might be around £70 or so. Overall, I really enjoyed Le Salon Prive, which has a low profile in terms of marketing. The cooking showed considerable skill and some ambition, and this is somewhere to which I will happily return.