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SquareMeal Review of Le Chardon

“Le Chardon is closed permanently”
Le Chardon’s French owner Robert Benyayer picked the right spot when he was looking to open a place of his own back in 1997. His chosen site was one of David Greig’s groundbreaking Victorian grocer’s stores, & the interior still shows off its character with beautiful original tiling & signage. Detractors feel there’s little genuine enthusiasm in the service, but the food is as Gallic as can be, from starters of garlicky snails, moules marinière & a salad starring grilled chèvre & roasted peppers to steak tartare, coq au vin, rump of lamb with rosemary or Barbary duck breast glazed with orange & honey sauce. To finish, chocolate mousse, crêpes Suzette & crème brûlée have devastating appeal. Le Chardon is at its most agreeable midweek evenings: the less busy the small space is, the more comfortable you’ll be. Also check it out for breakfast & Sunday lunch.

Good to know about Le Chardon

Average Price
££££ - £30 - £49
Cuisines
French

Location for Le Chardon

65 Lordship Lane, London, SE22 8EP

020 8299 1921

Website

Opening Times of Le Chardon

Mon-Sun 12N-11pm (Sat-Sun 9.30am- )

Reviews of Le Chardon

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5 Reviews 
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Service
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Value

Ms/Mrs. Samantha B

22 July 2014
I have eaten at this restaurant a number of times in the last three years, both at lunch and in the evenings. On every occasion the French bistro style menu has been excellent and the choice great. The food served has been consistently good on all occasions over the years and service usually decent. I am however sad to report that I will never be dining at Le Chardon again after my experience last Saturday. A regular user of GroupOn, I bought a voucher for Le Chardon giving me money off the final bill. What I didn't buy however was to be argued with at the end of my meal by an overly officious and aggressive restaurant manager. From nowhere my boyfriend and I were accused incorrectly of ignoring the Ts&Cs of the voucher and when we tried to explain the situation we were argued with further and continuously talked over. Despite sepaking clamly and quietly the manager responded to us with a raised voice more than once. Quite an amazing experience to have the proprietor of a restaurant talk to you like you'd just stolen from them and refuse to back down or apologise even when confronted with Ts&Cs of a voucher. Needless to say it ruined what was a lovely evening and I urge anyone planning a relaxing dinner to avoid this place like the plague. As the old saying goes…The customer is always right, except when you're the Manager of Le Chardon…
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Ms/Mrs. Helen L

French fancy? Not so much
14 March 2013
I was always intrigued by what lies beneath Le Chardon’s darkened windows, but I’ve generally been too busy marching past to other restaurants on Lordship Lane. Closer inspection reveals the bones of the building are a throwback to its heritage as a late 18th-century grocer, complete with latter-day fairy lights. Money can’t buy such a charming shell, with saloon doors and lacquered tiles that have been artfully, elegantly worn with age. Every inch oozes Gallic ambience and feels a bit like a secret, stolen corner of Manet’s Filies-Bergère. Based on these strengths, it should technically be my favourite restaurant in Dulwich. It’s not though, and here’s why: there’s a compelling argument for visiting only when you’re in the lustiest, most rapturous stages of romance. That is, booking while you’re basking in that golden honeymoon glow, and too busy making eyes to notice a bit of culinary mediocrity. Granted all that sultry candlelight and brooding shadow is geared to making an occasion of dinner, from the moment you arrive. But nobody’s going to swan over wearing a natty bow tie and deliver suave silver service, in keeping with the ambience. In fact, it was a bit of a mish mash: at times rather slow and ditsy but sweet-natured; at others, point-sharp and a little on the cool side. Initially we were subject to a slightly intense countdown when needing longer with the menu. The waiter was good to his word and returned after three minutes, then precisely three more, then a further and final two minutes to complete the order; all the while we felt eyed from the wings as our level of readiness was ascertained. His eagerness wasn’t wholly conducive to relaxation, but was by no means worthy of a proper grumble. Most of the menu was familiar and retro – nowt wrong with that, particularly when there were no barmy attempts to jazz up classics. (The odd mystifying incongruity pops up though… Ostrich? What are you doing here)? But what came out of the kitchen simply wasn’t good enough to inspire real, nostalgic affection for an outmoded cuisine, nor was it sufficient to warrant the steep prices. My starter was great: a warm, crumbed chevre emitting wafts of the farmyard, served with a sweet-sharp dressing. Next, my coq au vin arrived in a lidded copper casserole that was always going to win me over. Regrettably, it tasted alright and no more, lacking either cheffy finesse or the authenticity of something whipped up in a bistro kitchen. Perhaps I’m asking for the moon on a stick, but I expected more given that we were stung for sides on top of paying £15 a pop for mains. Those eating fish or seafood were racking up £25+ on a course, so it was disappointing that nobody was wowed with what they were eating. Puds were standard French fayre, including a tarte tatin that was sweetly sound. All in all, perfectly pleasant but unremarkable. Considering the fact we were armed with a Groupon (not to mention the jostling foodie competition within eyeshot), the meal didn’t represent great value. And given the gift that is the magnificent décor, Le Chardon seems to have missed a trick. Why not haul food and service standards up in line with the surroundings, justifying a sizeable bill that locals might happily rise to? At risk of being cynical, nearby Franklins routinely has punters beating the door down despite hefty prices because it’s successfully capitalised upon the farm to fork thing. I can’t spot many contenders specifically angling for the French monopoly in this neighbourhood, so it’s regrettable this place doesn’t live up to its aesthetic grandeur and trounce the competition. This bistro is the kind of place that’s smart enough to warrant a frock or your best shoes, but without the need to leave estuary accents at the door. I might give brunch here a whirl in future, and I’d also return if my other half suggested a meal here to get him out of the doghouse; it’s the kind of place that has resonance as a gesture, if not the most memorable meal. For now though, I’m not in a hurry to return; not until it transforms into a bar where I can while away the hours, sipping pernod cocktails or something equally de rigeur.
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Brendan M

03 January 2011
I've eaten at this restaurant over about 10 years. In recent years standards have dramatically fallen. Unfortunatey although aware of this, I booked a table for 4 for their New Year's Even dinner. It was a disgrace. At £55 + service charge per head + drinks one one have expected that staff at Le Chardon would have tried to make the New Year's Eve dining/event enjoyable. When we arrived at 9.00pm the signs were not good: no candles, no special decorations, no flowers and resentful staff were even reluctant to take diners' coats. Service was very slow. At around 11.30pm poor service and an unfriendly mood deteriorated even further. Desert was an indifferent cheese cake and then kitchen rubbish was taken out through the restaurant; the kitchen door was opened to ensure that there was a cold draught; resentful staff moaned together in the backroom; and many diners were not served their final course. There was no competent managerial presence. Worse of all diners were subjected to very loud, horrible, and utterly inappropriate techno-music blasting from some obscure radio station. Requests to change the music were treated with disdain – clearly the plan to clear the restaurant before the New Year was working. Before midnight most diners had left. A cold, hostie, unfriendly experience – in short a rip-off.
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Ms/Mrs. Marie G

04 April 2009
The service from one person was pretty poor, she kept knocking into my chair without saying “sorry”, reaching over my shoulders to pour wine, and dropped water over my my napkin which was neatly folded in front me. She kept slapping down the glasses as though she couldn't be bothered, had to ask for side plates for bread (which in turn was cold and hard). The food wasn't that great for the price, the ostrich was tasteless although the fishcakes were nice, the crepes were like they had been made previously and stacked between greaseproof paper so they could be slapped in a plate for the orange sauce to be poured with a ladle and microwaved for warmth (we refused to pay for that one!!), and lastly, we refused to pay the service charge due to poor service, (the total was something like £57.80), they got the hump and gave us the change back in 10p's – in this case we thought this was quite childish £2.80 in 10p's…, We won't be going back there – i think this restaurant has put the French to shame…
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Mr. Nick C

21 December 2008
I first eat at Le Chardon in 2000 when I moved to East Dulwich and it was excellent. Fish Soup, Pheasant and crème brûlée; all very French and done really well. Repeat visits were always enjoyable, until now. Either the restaurant has changed hands or the owners have lost interest because it feels different for all the wrong reasons. The whole experience seems cheap and tacky now. From the square plates (eurchh!), to the individual white bread roles and arrogant waiters. The fish soup is no longer rich and luxurious and is now a thin and bland broth. The pigeon breast, whilst nicely cooked was cold. My wife's ostrich steak was ordered ‘medium’ and arrived rare. When I mentioned this to the waiter he arrogantly suggested that we shouldn't order Ostritch medium anyway and it should be done rare (so why did he ask us how we wanted it cooked then?!). The desserts which were stated as home-made on the menu are simply home-made-grade and bought in. My toffee pudding was like a something we had at school and my wife's chocolate mousse was more sauce than mousse. When the bill came, they hadn't charged us for our mains, and the bill still came to £65 with service added by the house. Not a cheap restaurant but one that seems to be plagued by cheapness.
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