Whenever I read restaurant reviews I always impatiently skim over the article first to find the dishes that were eaten. I’m going to presume everyone is like me and list these first before rambling on.
Crab cake with saffron hollandaise
Roast chicken with garlic butter and rocket
Steak and chips with bearnaise sauce
Confit of duck with asparagus and spinach
Seasonal roast veg – carrots with chervil
Bistrotheque is one of those places that you would never just walk into off the street. Why, you ask? Well it’s really hard to find, even if you know the address, which we did.
It’s down a dark alley in a trendy and slightly grimy area of London called Bethnal Green and after parking the car we had the difficult task of finding the entrance. ‘Look at the building numbers’, I hear you shouting. Thank you, dear readers, we did do that and when we arrived in front of the building we deducted to be 23-27, we were still very unsure if we were in the right place.
It looked a bit dirty and kind of like the back entrance to someone’s house, but we tentatively peeked around an open doorway and found freshly painted brick white walls with the logo stenciled on one. Phew, we were in the right place.
Once upstairs in the dining room I was completely at ease. The three of us, my friend Michelle, The Bear and I were promptly seated by a lovely American waiter and able to absorb our surroundings. Exposed light bulbs hanging from the roof provided dim moody light and the tables were placed close enough to be cosy and far enough to be out of ear shot.
Dark wood furniture and crisp white table cloths were offset by the feature decoration; a black baby grand piano. Unfortunately no-body was playing it the evening we were there, but apparently someone called Xavior plays it during brunch service on Sundays.
We were lucky enough to turn up on the first day of their new Spring menu, although I didn’t know this until checking out their website the next day. Chef Tom Collins has been in charge of the kitchen since 2004 producing French bistro and British classics and all three of us were totally delighted with our meals – how often does that happen?
We shared the crab cake to start. The thin crunchy coating just held together the perfectly fresh crab mixture. The saffron hollandaise sauce was light and not too ‘eggy’. When the mains arrived we cut little pieces off to share with each other. I had the duck confit and kept the majority of it to myself; it was much too good to share. Rich, soft duck meat fell away from the bone and practically jumped onto my fork. Simply steamed spinach and asparagus displayed skillful restraint – the fresh spring asparagus sung on my tongue.
I thought it was a bad idea for Michelle to order roast chicken. We both know she can cook this at home. But when it arrived, I swallowed my words. I’d forgotten two things; this was a restaurant that specialised in French bistro cooking and roast chicken with perfectly crisped skin and moist meat is totally irresistible. When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong. (Mostly).
I also advised The Bear against getting the steak and chips, I felt he should order something more complex to really appreciate the chef’s skills. But when I saw his steak I desperately wanted it; perfectly rare and glistening beside me, it boasted a darkly charred exterior and well rested pink flesh. Upon tasting that steak, I knew The Bear was right and I was wrong… again.
Although I went to Bistrotheque with friends on a Tuesday night, it’s not a restaurant to treat too casually. There is a real ambience and sophistication to the place that extends from the decor to the staff and flows onto the food. It’s good value for money and a must for those of us who love good produce cooked simply and with care.
Happy eating, Christie
23-27 Wadeson Street
London, E2 9DR
Ph: +44 (0)20 8983 7900