Le Café Anglais
8 Porchester Gardens
Date of Last Visit: Tuesday, March 24, 2009
The Victims: Charlie, Lizzie, Niamh
The Damage: Only to my liver
The Background: I know a few things about Le Café Anglais before embarking upon my inaugural visit and review. I know that it is in a shopping mall. I know that it used to be a McDonald's. And I know that it's owned by a guy named Charlie who told me that the walk from Sambrook's Brewery to The Westbridge would only take five minutes.
Charlie is a liar.
Nevertheless, he is a very generous liar, and he also seems to be the owner (or one of the owners?) of Le Café Anglais and he has invited me to dinner–over Twitter no less–and I cannot say no. Anything, you know, is better than a dinner of pretzels and hummus from my local Turkish grocery store. Although I do love pretzels.
The Entrance: I head west and arrive at Le Café Anglais nearly on time. I run into Lizzie in the entranceway and we make our way upstairs to say hi to Charlie and enjoy some bellinis and wait for Niamh. I ask Charlie where the Mickey D registers/tills used to be (up front, towards Bayswater, he tells us) and I admire the windows, which are, apparently, original.
Le Café Anglais is a big space. And there are lots of big tables. Tables for four. Tables for six. If you're even the tiniest bit posh, you should bring your grandparents here when they come to visit you in London. You'll like it. They'll like it. It will be perfect.
The Food: And so it begins. Charlie eats at Le Café Anglais all the time. So I really don't even bother with the menu. I think I might have volunteered that I like anchovies and bacon and I don't like mushrooms. That's about it.
The starters arrive–that's SOME of them in the top photo–and I do fall in love with the parmesan custard with anchovy toasts. It's the type of dish that tempts me to cook. Anchovies? Toast? Surely, I can make "anchovy toast."
And then the parade of food arrives. I was overwhelmed. If not for Charlie's notes, I would be sitting here telling you that I ate some eel and bacon and then some fish that had been mashed through a special machine that I'm convinced does not exist and then I ate some cheese and drank some Vouvray and then, well, then I went home.
And then YOU could call ME a liar.
Or perhaps…economical with the truth. Because we had a lot of dishes. A lot. Like enough to make me consider–however briefly–the London Marathon. Because surely, if I were training for a marathon, I could eat like this all the time.
Here, the warm salad of eel and smoked bacon. Eel is seriously one of my favorite things. (Separate, but related…eel and goat…you will see them many places this year, and everywhere next year. I predict. And for those of you who read The New York Times, I was totally down with the goat (minds out of gutters please) before they were.)
Spinach Mousse with Salsify and Morels…I love spinach. I mean, really, like Popeye. And I loved this creation of spinach. It was really lovely and different and interesting. (I also love this photo where I'm taking a photo of Lizzie taking a photo of spinach mousse.)
Middle White Pork and Apple Sauce. I stole some more of the crispy bits while no one was looking.
A cheese plate…a fantastically beautiful cheeseplate of Brie de Meaux, Chèvre St Maure, Duckett’s Caerphilly, Fourme d’Ambert, Lancashire, Montgomery Cheddar, Parmigiano-Reggiano and St Marcellin. I just with there had been little paper signs on toothpicks.
Custard Tart with Prunes. Now this was nice and comforting and homey and everything right about dessert. Except for prunes. Prunes are evil.
The Loos: I remember using the loos–only very vaguely because really copious amounts of wine were consumed–and thinking, "Hmmm. These are okay. But they can do better. They should visit The Ledbury." Power washing…Charlie, if you're reading this, it's the future.
The Verdict: This is a tough review to write. A. I can't really complain because it was free and B. I can't complain because the anchovy toasts and parmesan custard have seriously changed my life and C. I can't complain because I've never experienced a cheeseplate like that and D. I can't complain because our host dipped into his private wine collection for us.
But I can probably say…
Somebody REALLY likes radishes. Personally, I'm not a huge fan.
I would have a hard time eating here alone. It's just so BIG.
We never did get that tour of the kitchen.
We didn't meet the chef.
And the duck was only okay.
But really, you should go for the parmesan custard and anchovy toasts alone.