“Bistro de luxe and bar” says the strapline of Bouchon, and the Parisian patio furniture and interiors resplendent in marble and brass, dark woods and deep Bordeaux reds, wine-bottle greens and plump leather banquettes all do point south to our friends in France.
Flick open the à la carte, and it boasts all the classics, from boeuf Bourguignon (here made richly with ox cheek) to a rotisserie roasted half chicken. Hold the gravy, merci, although even that’s not as anti-French as a double patty cheeseburger in a bun – brioche is for breakfast, not for sticking a steak haché into; tout le monde knows that the only thing going with any kind of steak, minced or otherwise, is frites. Confit duck leg, tick, with cream sauce, untick. Black pudding and apple compote with a Toulouse sausage bean cassoulet? Maybe not. The Bouchon menu has lots to thank the Français for (French onion soup, pork rillettes, chicory and walnut salad, garlic mushrooms, say), but most of the dishes veer off piste. Even the king of cheese Camembert is given the baked treatment and, horreur, served with crostini. There’s an artisanal cheeseboard (for authenticity, pair with a glass of Sauternes over the port on offer) and an impressive choice of desserts – apple tarte Tatin, crème brûlée and chocolate fondant with pistachio ice cream wouldn’t look out of place on the Champs-Elysées; a Calvados take on an affogato involving a macaron, less so.
Still, there are some proper French boozes to be enjoyed. As well as the Calvo, there’s an Armagnac and a Poire Williams for afters, and nobody leaves crying when there’s a good simple Kir Royale with which to high kick off proceedings, Moulin Rouge style, and some tidy wine offerings in all colours.
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