145 Dovehouse Street
Hidden behind the red brick and Ancaster stone of the
I can only describe the clientele at Le Colombier on that Tuesday, as the full cast from the 1980’s BBC satire ‘Yes, Minister.’ It was reassuringly British for French Brassiere. Tables full of well-suited men with attractive women of a certain age on their arms. What was also reassuring about this dining experience was there were no hushed whispering tones - it was all good conversation and laughter. In short, Le Colombier has atmosphere.
Wine was chosen by my dinner companion (the vegetarian), and we settled on a fruity pinot noir and tucked into the fresh baguette and creamy pat of cold butter, of which I could have eaten kilograms.
Le Colombier's menu is utterly French, from the tip of its Soupe du Jour to its Crème Brûlée, which we will come to later. In my experience this usually creates a bit of a problem for the vegetarian as the French, much like the Italians and Germans, don't understand the meaning of the word. This being Chelsea however, our extremely efficient waiter suggested a creation which loosely sounded like puff pastry and some vegetables. Being a fully fledged carnivore myself, I decided the season dictated game - duck and venison. I was sorely tempted by the various cuts of Scottish beef including a rib for two with béarnaise sauce, and it's worth noting that the fish selection was also mouth-watering.
As a starter I chose rich Tranche de Foie Gras Maison with fig jam and for him Salade au Fromage de Chèvre Tiède - polar opposites. For my part, I'm not usual a fan of Foie Gras but when in France… It was cool, smooth, creamy and perfect once warmed a little on the sweet toasted brioche. I was however, heartbroken to leave half the portion of fig jam on the plate. Its strong flavour meant a knife tip was more than enough with each bite of brioche. The goat's cheese, according to the vegetarian, was also very creamy and not as sharp as one might expect from this common veggie menu item. It was perched on top of a toasted baguette and suitably smothered in hollandaise.
Diners at Le Colombier appear to be defined as either locals, regulars or invited guests thereof. Every table was full, and there was more than one birthday dinner. It's always a promising sign to see people who have chosen to celebrate a special occasion at a particular restaurant. Le Colombier is too tucked away to be the kind of place where one wanders in off the street, but you get the impression that they get the business in any case. If you're after a quiet dinner, Sundays are, according to owner Didier Garnier, a little less packed.
My venison was soft and tasty - the meat a perfect gamey pink in the middle and served with a rich gravy. It was plated with a pear poached in red wine and braised cabbage, carrot and chestnut. Although the flavours were well thought through and the venison utter perfection, the cabbage was sadly a little over-salted and the pears overly sweet. Unable to cope with their dominant flavours, I stuck to the meat. The mysterious vegetable dish turned out to be a rather delightful point of puff pastry, filled with sautéed wild mushrooms in garlic and cream, on bed of spinach. Simply scrumptious was the verdict.
Allowing minutes to let the dust settle on our main course, along came the dessert menu and with eyes bigger than our bellies, we dived in. Crème Brûlée and Sorbet au Cassis arrived in epic proportions along with our coffee. I think overly generous would best describe what arrived at our table, and although we valiantly attempted to clear our plates it just was not possible. The coffee we somehow found room to drink, was the best I've had in London and a lovely finish to merry evening.
A three course meal for two with wine will set you back by around £100.
**For more information, visit** http://le-colombier-restaurant.co.uk/
**Reviewer:** Anne Giacomantonio