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Chabrot - Knightsbridge


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So to chabrot last night, the well reviewed, recently opened French bistro in knightsbridge. Given the gist appeared to be value traditional French bistro cooking from owners with excellent provenance I was quite looking forward to this as that pretty much ticks my boxes, no small plates, no ‘let me explain our concept in dining’ just some decent ingredients, good sensibly served by knowledgeable staff, washed down with non gougy wine. How hard can it be? Well on the basis of last nights showing, it seems I have higher expectations than many.

On time for our early 7pm table we were barely greeted by the staff who were clustered around the reservation book and show to a table in the window, given menus and ordered water, I think we’d barely looked at the menu before we were asked if we were ready to order, a theme that ran through the entire meal.

Menu reads nicely, hot and cold starters, charcuterie, seafood, grills and plates for 2, many liberally greased with foie, lovely. We eventually decided on 2 starters to share, hot foie gras with comte pop –over – read cheesy Yorkshire pudding and chiperones – deep fried baby squids. I’m not exaggerating when I say that we ordered I went straight to the gents and by the time I came back – and bear in mind this is a tiny restaurant, the starters were on the table. The squid was competently fried and seasoned, but was not all baby squid, a goodly chunk of it was diced squid tube. The foie starter was disappointing, rubbery balls of liver with a very lightly cheesy pudding, nothing like say the gougeres at champion sauvage or hibiscus of old.

Plates were whipped away as the last forkful went in, ok maybe a slight exaggeration, but as soon as thy were cleared, our, ahem intermediate foie and cepe stuffed cabbage made its appearance. This was brought in a dinky pot and carefully split at the table with some skill by the waiter. Unfortunately it was very similar to the starter, only one piece of recognisable foie was discernable in the mix and it lacked seasoning, a bit of salt resuscitated it but it was only ever clinging on, not quite the classic stuffed cabbage I was expecting.

You may guess, and you’d be correct that as soon as that left the table, we were re-set for the veal chop for two we’d ordered as a main which arrived speedily and was accompanied with some decent spring veg and a side of (very good) frites. Once again the veal was plated at the table as it had come from the kitchen sliced in another crockery pot, I paid the price for a moments inattention during the carving as I ended up with the scrag ends and mate rob, the lovely prime slices, being a decent fellow unbidden he did the decent thing and swapped some slices! Veal was good, I assume from their local butcher O’Sheas and the veg good, but griddling a bit of veal and cooking veg in a butter emulsion isn’t a massive task.

Although not desperately unhappy to be finished early, it felt a rushed and for no obvious benefit, surprisingly for a restaurant reviewed in 3 top titles at least , it wasn’t busy and there seemed to be no demand for our table back, deserts looked uninspiring and given the rush we weren’t predisposed to spending any more, we had a couple of large espressos that were unfortunately devoid of crema which about summed the meal up, about 60% of the way there.

On the wine front we had a very drinkable tollot beaut Bourgogne blanc 07 at £35 and a lovely 2007 arlaud gevrey chambertin at £55, though this showed on the bill at £65, after a minor kefuffle with the menu it was proved that I was right and the bill changed. Given setting up a till is the devils own work I think it’s a genuine oversight. Prices didn’t seem that cheap, our starters at the cheaper end at c. £8.50, the stuffed cabbage £19 and the veal £48. they do run what looks like a very good value prix fixe, if I worked nearby I’d probably give it another go once it has settled in further but can’t see me making another journey especially to try. Given the area I think we both felt a meal at bar boulud would have given more bang for similar bucks.

you don't win friends with salad

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  • 2 months later...

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So finally to Chabrot, and indeed I have wanted to visit for some time, for more than a couple of reasons. First, one was chef Thierry Labourde, ex Roux, (Le Gavroche) and Ducasse (Louis XV), not a bad pedigree. He is one of the four partners, who include, a wine expert, a celebrity florist, and a well regarded front of house. Looking good then.

In true continental style, befitting any bistro, it does not hurt to see staff standing by the front door. The interior reeks of gallic charm, with the oversize mirror on one wall displaying the formule du jour. Wooden floors, evocative prints, and red and white tablecloths transport you across the English channel.

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The menu is thoughtfully both in French and with an English translation. This saves the wait staff and customer having to cover the same tedious ground time and again. Forty seven dishes jostle for attention. These include three house speciality mains to share, plus hot and cold starters, meat, fish and pasta, charcuterie, cheese, desserts, and side dishes. On top of this there are "specials", perhaps three to five most days.

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Bread was instantly recognisable as one of the offerings also at Pollen Street Social. A delicious Boulangerie de Paris offering.

Marinated Sardines, white grapes, basil (£6.50)

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Crispy baby squid, piment d'espelette (£8.50)

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A decent enough start. The lady's "chiparons" were crispy and tasty, quite a decent portion, pleasant but hardly exciting. Same perhaps for the sardines although I found the dressing to be slightly too acidic, the fish having taken on too much of the dressing, although that is perhaps just a personal thing.

From the specials list I ordered a whole Lemon Sole. Well, we waited a not unreasonable amount of time only to be informed that the kitchen had a slight mishap with said dish and would I accept another dish in its place for the same price. Naturally I accepted, as the other dish I was offered was a house speciality at another ten pounds extra. The only downside was they had to prepare the other dish from scratch. To compensate for the wait we were compted two starters from the kitchen, as follows.

Warm Duck liver pate, Compte cheese popovers (£8.50)

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Not having ordered the said dish, on first glance, on its way to the table, I thought it was a mini leg of lamb. Much was made of the hand chopped liver by our waiter and truth be told we enjoyed it quite a bit. In between the tiny squares of liver, lay slivers of caper and shallot and tiny flecks of parsley. The cheese gougere is a French classic, in very much the same way as our Yorkshire pudding. I was not however getting much of a cheesy taste from it.

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The other dish was a fresh as you like offering of Broad beans, ewes cheese, and olive oil (£7.50)

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Strikingly bold in its simplicity, top tasting produce, and with the sun shining brightly outside, it really was very much a dish of the moment.

Wild Sea Bass in a salt crust (£29.50) was served simply with shaved fennel and half a vine leaved lemon.

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As nice as the dish was, it needed some other veg to ease the monotony and we had thankfully ordered some Haricot vert and carrots (£3.50 each) to take the taste buds off in another direction. Both veg btw were excellent.

Mrs G made a wise choice with one of the house signiture dishes Choux farci Chabrot (£19). Stuffed cabbage of Veal, chestnuts, foie gras and ceps. oh and some fruit which I can not remember what (because it was not my dish) Perhaps two half mouthfuls was not enough to judge, but I would have most happily ordered this myself.

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Feeling the effect of our two compted starters, pudding seemed a bridge too far. However the Fraise Gariguettes, creme Chantilly (£7.50) fitted the bill perfectly, with the fluffy cream and the acidic strawberries.

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In for a penny, in for a pound, and why not. A sharing plate of desserts, Gateau de Marie, a soft chocolate cake topped with seseme seeds. Canelle Bordelais, rum and vanilla flavoured cakes. A tiny dish of cherries, and a glass of ? with a prune to nibble on.

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Well to sum up.

Chabrot has had mostly very good reviews from the press and blogsphere, and partly because of that I wanted to visit. I freely admit to not being bowled over with everything on offer. That could be perhaps something to do with the fact we had dined at Roganic the day before, or that my expectation level was higher than the kitchen could offer. I also feel some of the dishes are overpriced (seabass £29.50, lamb chops £26.50) for a simple bistro concept. Having said that the plat du jour with its variations of plat with a glass of wine or plat with mini dessert, coffee, are very good value although only available at certain times.

There is a lot of competition in Knightsbridge at the top end, especially for lunchtime eating with bargain pricing. Koffmanns, Bar Boulud immediately spring to mind. Even Heston's Dinner, if you could bag a table. If I lived locally they would be my first choice. Its easy to rack a bill of £100 for two at Chabrot if you dine off the carte even with an entry bottle of wine (£19.50, which was not that pleasant incidently). If we did return we would be judiciously picking our way through the menu, pricing wise, as for a bistro in somewhat simple attire, some of the pricing is out of kilter with the concept.

Give it a try, especially if you are a Francophile. You may be pleasantly surprised. I can think of a great number of worse ways to spend a couple of hours.

"So many places, so little time"

http://londoncalling...blogspot.co.uk/

@d_goodfellow1

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The menu is thoughtfully both in French and with an English translation. This saves the wait staff and customer having to cover the same tedious ground time and again.

Is that really thoughtful? We are in Britain, wouldn't you expect to see the menu in English?

Feeling the effect of our two compted starters, pudding seemed a bridge too far. However the Fraise Gariguettes, creme Chantilly (£7.50) fitted the bill perfectly, with the fluffy cream and the acidic strawberries.

The foodie nerd in me is going to suggest that those don't look like Gariguettes which tend to be longer and narrower as well as being an early season strawberry. I'm not betting my life on it though as I do have a few stragglers on my own Gariguette plants.

"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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Matthew

I,m glad to have brought the pedant out of you :laugh:

Of course we are in Britain. Good observation gracefully accepted.

With regard to the strawberries. I was expecting something looking other than Elsanta and took the waiter to task. He went back to the kitchen and returned a short while later telling me the chef said they were Marra des Bois a member of the gariguette family. As I am far from an expert I took it at face value.

There is a furthar step in this story. After the meal we ventured over the road to Harrods for a wander around the food halls and buy some bread. And guess what? On sale were some gariguette strawberries looking almost identical to the ones in the review.

I was most relieved.

Bread of Heaven We chose the cholla and olive.

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Edited by david goodfellow (log)

"So many places, so little time"

http://londoncalling...blogspot.co.uk/

@d_goodfellow1

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i think they raised the prices from the initial opening levels which talked of decent value iirc, it wasn't when i went.

All you needed to know was in my post david, it's just not good enough for the prices! :laugh:

you don't win friends with salad

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I'd think them more likely to Mara des Bois, they are perpetual, smaller berries like the ones in your photo though I'm not sure that they are actually crossed with Gariguettes. I'm surprised they wouldn't just advertise them as Mara des Bois, they are a beautiful strawberry, I've got a lot of those on my plants at the moment. Google a picture of a Gariguette, they are quite distincitve.

Edited to add: MdB are actually a cross of 4 different strawberries, I'm pretty certain Gariguette isn't amongst them.

Edited by Matthew Grant (log)

"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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i think they raised the prices from the initial opening levels which talked of decent value iirc, it wasn't when i went.

All you needed to know was in my post david, it's just not good enough for the prices! :laugh:

I love David's reviews, but all I needed to know was your 'we had a couple of large espressos that were unfortunately devoid of crema' - made me shiver :cool:

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