Another hit from Xavier Rousset
Rather than rest on the laurels earned from opening Blandford Comptoir this time last year, Xavier Rousset has moved direction with his latest venture, Comptoir Café & Wine.
This all day venture sits on the site of the old United Dairies operation in Mayfair, the other half of which is occupied by Deliciously Ella's Mae Deli (ironically a diary free offering in a former diary). Whereas the latter is all clean eating, meat free, glutton free, dairy free, alcohol free, as would befit a Master Sommelier, clean eating is left very much behind, with hand carved Iberico ham, gorgeous sourdough, cheeses to die for and a wine list of epic proportions being the order of the day.
For those, like me, who adore Blandford Comptoir, upstairs will feel familiar: there is a counter with some stools to sit and munch and sup at. There are tables in and out, for doing very much the same, and the rest of the counter groans with (at varying times of the day) viennoiserie, a whole leg of Iberico ham, oysters, cheeses and a bucket filled to the brim with ice. And champagne.
Descend to the basement, however, and it is all new. Arranged along the walls around a large table are bottles. Not just any old bottles, but bottles culled from the best wineries around the world. A New Zealand pinot? Of course, try the Felton Road. A cheeky little Spanish? Would a Tondonia work? French? My name is Xavier, what more can I say? A sparkler? Please step into the chilled champagne room, and chose anything from a Cristal to an Egly-Oreit, or perhaps a grower champagne from somebody you've never heard of, but will come back to again and again.
Moving through, there is a large central table, perfect for tastings or small gatherings of friends and, tucked around the corner, a few lower lying tables and chairs, in the "library". And indeed the whole place feels like a library, but a more fun, jovial, convivial one than your local public one (if you're lucky enough still to have one), where bottles rather than books are plucked from the shelves, and silence is very much not the order of the day.
The food offerings are small and made for a quick snack to soak up the alcohol. As with Blandford Comptoir, they come grouped together: soups and salads; toasties and rolls (the triple layered croque monsieur is going to become an Instagram hit, but really should be eaten piping hot); fish and shellfish; meat and charcuterie; deserts and cheese. All that I've tasted have been great, but really they are but a side show to the wine, with which you have two choices: buy a great bottle at a great price and drink at home, or pay £10 corkage and enjoy it here, with some of that lovely cheese or a freshly shucked oyster perhaps.
With friendly and warm service and a welcoming atmosphere, Xavier has once again built a hit.