I've eaten in a few of Jason Atherton's restaurants, and always I've left feeling that I've been given very good food, with no disappointments, and a feeling that I've had decent value. But of course most of the food I've eaten has been "modern European" and I have wondered whether he could translate his values to what is billed as a bistro, but turns out to have some interesting twists.
We both chose the set three course lunch today, in a restaurant that with its dark wood, banquettes, and bar stools, looks like some pub dining rooms. By the time we finished, the restaurant was full. We were greeted nicely and the service was pleasant and timely throughout- maybe a little brisk actually Good bread, though my wife found the butter (smoked?) a little too salty. As seems todays fashion, there were no amuses bouches , inter-course dishes, or petits fours, though that said, with three courses we had sufficient to eat. Our leek and potato soup starters with quail egg and (I think) wild garlic was tasty and flavoured strongly of leek rather than the creamy, potato -rich dish one often encounters. It was our first clue really that despite that this wasn't a typical Jason Atherton menu, that doesn't mean that flavours are indistinct, or that you can't pick out the advertised ingredients quite clearly. Its as if the principles of his more usual food have been abstracted and applied to a different type of food. My cod on an ( extraordinarily flavoursome) cauliflower couscous in a duck broth was nothing short of delicious. My wife's beef jus ( in essence a pulled ox cheek sandwich with a dipping broth and chips) was in theory equally unusual, though she'd say that the dish was decent rather than exciting. My rhubarb and apple crumble was again delicious- the crumble had the crisp texture of a toasted muesli rather than heavy, solid topping that so often accompanies this dish. The fruits were delicious too.
Now the impression I want to create here is that this restaurant is often described as a bistro, and there's an element of truth in that. But its not a place to go expecting classical versions of traditional French bistro standards. The level and style of cooking across the road is filtering across, and frankly the cooking here is better than I'd expect in a bistro, either here or in France. There's a fine-ness and the ability to pick out individual ingredients about the cooking here, and it does make it better.
Our bill for three courses, a half-litre of a pleasant, easy drinking house red, coffee and service came to £96, which we thought was good value for food of this quality and interest. We'll go back.