Monday, 5 April 2010

Le Cassoulet, good French food.

Exterior of Le Cassoulet.

It must be admitted that Croydon, as a place, does not get a good press. Perhaps it is because of the feral school children and confused asylum seekers wandering around the Whitgift Centre. However how many of you realise it has a palace? Croydon is more of a demographic cape, it is where currents meet. Suburban money, Home Counties wealth, and middle England respectability clash with Croydon face lifts, jerk chicken and people with faces like shovels. A bit of that shovel faced character can be seen in its most famous child Kate Moss. But what of those other famous children of Croydon: John Ruskin, David Lean and Jacquelin Du Pre? I mention all this not because I am a Croydonite, but because the area may have hidden pleasures. To illustrate this fact I raise the subject of the restaurant Le Cassoulet located in South Croydon.

Interior of restaurant(lunchtime).

Le Cassoulet, named after the titular bean and gubbins stew is a small restaurant serving classic French dishes. Unpretentious dishes such as Moules Mariniere, Pate, Confit of Duck properly cooked and attractively presented without any of those mastercheffy flourishes (foams that look like spittle, scallops on scrapings and so forth). Every thing you order is what you expect, but much better. For the prices this is an extraordinarily good restaurant. Even at much higher prices it would be still be an excellent restaurant.

Interior of restaurant (night time).

One of the things I appreciated is its rejection of that particularly British affectation: the distressed, dainty battered french farmhouse style leavened generously with Seaside naffery. For a classic example see Sophie Dahl's kitchen in her current television series, more Notting Hill than Normandy. Like all good French restaurants Le Cassoulet is grown up. It's Frenchness resides in its banquettes, delicate flowery wall paper and wall mounted lamps. It is the kind of interior the Dean Street Townhouse is stylishly pastiching. The staff are largely French, and have that combination of professionalism and humour very faintly veined with a hint of superciliousness that is the mark of good gallic restaurant bods. The Hare ragout was off, as they were not 'eating the Easter bunny' which of course was originally the far tastier hare. They handled the neighbouring table, a group of people who could have walked straight out of Abigail's Party with friendly forbearance. The wine recommended by them was excellent, the cassoulet punctured with generous servings of duck was pronounced delicious and even the cheese course was well judged. Steaks were perfectly cooked, a citron tart was lovely. I was taken back by the price of the lunch menu; £16.50 for three courses. I asked to look at the evening menu, richer more sophisticated dishes, but still about £28.00 for three courses. This food was better than many expensive central London restaurants. I know many reading this will mutter about Sherpas and vaccinations but for those of you not living in Siberia (Norf and East London) Le Cassoulet does what a good restaurant should do: provide a well cooked meal and a gentle relaxing environment to eat it in. Now if they would only open a branch in Soho....

See the homepage for further information about the restaurant: www.lecassoulet.co.uk

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