19 April 2014
We've had just moderate luck these last few weeks in trying new restaurants, but rather than retreat to a “tried and trusted”, we decided on a different tack. Pick an area where we'd like to go for a walk, and search on Square Meal to find something with a Square Meal star, or maybe two, that we could incorporate into our walk. We came across Le Vacherin and booked it for our first visit this lunchtime. We parked a mile or so away, walking past Trompette on the way, and almost convinced ourselves that we'd made a mistake, for their menu looked delicious and it was a real test of resolve not to dive in there and ask if they could take us. However we walked into Vacherin at the allotted time.
Its a long time since I had a lunch comprising a dozen escargots and a steak au poivre with frites , but that's what I had today, and it made me think I'd slipped back maybe thirty years to a time when most French restaurants were just like this. My wife's wild garlic veloute ( really delicious) and corn-fed chicken in a bourguignon sauce (was this actually coq au vin?) were perhaps a little less retro than my selections. I enjoyed both my courses in the way we enjoyed food years ago- nothing clever; no ingredients we hadn't heard of, nothing on small plates and certainly nothing from Peru. For this is a bistro, and it survives by serving traditional,tasty food predictably and well. Even the bread – sourced from an artisan bakery they said, was a revelation, and they served anchovy butter which I hadn't seen since Chez Gerard died on us.
The place itself looks the part with lots of mirrors and crisp white tablecloths , with wait-staff in black & white uniforms and full of “sirs” and “madams” in an era when in most suburban restaurants the staff are very casual and call you “guys”. And the cooking here is good. Its actually quite difficult to find food like this nowadays, and that's a pity because its both decent and contributes to the variety we need to keep us enjoying eating out. My wife's veloute and my steak probably took the honours here but it was all good. As was the bottle of a south-western French Syrah, light enough for lunch and good value too. If you like this but you're in central London, then Boudin Blanc in Shepherd Market is comparable.
All told our bill with service came to just over £80 with two courses , a couple of sides, the wine and coffee. Pretty decent value we thought , reflecting on the way out that we'd had a thoroughly pleasant lunch and we'll certainly eat at Le Vacherin again.