It's Got My Name Written All Over It
Imaginative food and impeccable service make this bistro the 'Charlotte's' place to be
I know what you're thinking. Charlotte's Place is an advertiser on this website so how likely is it that you'll find a disparaging review here?
I booked a table here anonymously and with some trepidation arrived at the restaurant, knowing that I would find it hard to give a great advertiser a bad review, but even more difficult to mask my disgust.
Thankfully, I needn't have worried. The restaurant has a reputation for being pricey, so you expect top notch service and food. Both of those were there in abundance - it was just the price tag that was lacking!
I arrived early, or rather my other half arrived late. The entrance to Charlotte's Place is on the side at their 'winter' entrance. There's a doorbell and you are immediately greeted, your coat taken and shown to your table. I liked this touch - proper hosting, dinner party style. None of the usual jostle.
I was shown to a room downstairs. Sitting there (alone), I had the chance to take in the surroundings. It hasn't got the view so many people try to avoid it, but what is lacks in common gazing potential, it definitely makes up for in atmosphere. It was quite raucous down there for a Thursday.
The decor is minimalist. Lots of dark wood which works well in this cellar environment.
At last my companion and we could look at the menu. Obviously I could have been looking at it in the meantime, had I not been engrossed in a neighbouring tables' conversation, and not twigged that the menu was on the back of the sheet of paper in front of me.
We were brought bread as we came to a decision and a bottle of Wandering Bear (£23). We wanted it all but I finally opted for the Tuna Tartare (£7), more as a test than a real interest. There were plenty of options I would have preferred, within my 'comfort zone', blah blah, but I thought this was the most likely to offend my sensibilities, blah blah.
I can't really put into words how pleased I am with the choice. Seriously! It was ingenious. Signature dish material. Melt in the mouth gorgeous tuna, crispy almost onion ring-like shallots, radishes, beautiful subtle avocado puree, and what was that briney tasting vegetable lying beneath? In my rapture, I completely forgot to ask. Honestly, that should always be on the menu. Tuna Tartar, King of Starters.
My belated guest chose the Raviolo of Wild Salmon and King Scallop, with Shellfish Butter Sauce (£7) and was very pleased with it. The only criticism he had was the inclusion of spinach. So not a problem for normal guests who eat green vegetables!
For the main Confit of Duck, Celariac Puree, Honey Roast Carrots and Red Wine Jus (£15). I wanted to give this one a go because I've got a job lot of tinned ones from France which are pretty amazing and wanted to see if Charlotte's could compete. They did admirably. Not as salty as my tinned version, which is good or bad depending on how unhealthy your taste.
Tardy went for the 8oz Scotch Rib Eye Steak with Dauphinoise Potatoes and Green Pepper Sauce (£17), but switched the sauce for the Bearnaise on offer with Chateaubriand. Unfortunately he was also given mushrooms. Again, a bonus to diners who like vegetables! It was fine - I had them and they were very good.
Pudding for me was British and Irish Artisan Cheeses from Neal's Yard Dairy (£9). I was allowed to pick three and given the lowdown on my choices once I had done so. I went for Tunworth, a soft cheese. Said to have the aroma of cabbage! Sounded nice... Stichelton, like Stilton, but not... And Stinking Bishop. Clue is in the title.
They were perfection. Beautifully served, oozing. Not straight out of the chiller which can really destroy the whole thing. And the winner was the Tunworth. Cabbage has never tasted so good.
My delayer chose the Strawberry Pannacotta, with Shortbread Biscuit and Taster of Moscato E'Asti (£8) - a favourite of his that he has noticed restaurants often make a hash of. This was the real deal.We were later given the quantities used to achieve this, and promptly forgot them. Lots of cream and milk.
So Charlotte's Place was up to scratch - beautiful food, great service and at a reasonable price. An even better one had I remembered to mention the £25 discount to EalingToday.co.uk members...
Charlotte (or the headline doesn't work) Canniff
March 27, 2009