"This is the best kind of hearty, classic French cooking"Review Rating: Reviewed by Laurel
It’s all to easy to become swept away in the wave of new restaurants seemingly opening their doors daily in London, but spare a thought for the classics; you may find yourself surprised.
It’s no secret you can often find better French food in London than across the channel (sorry Paris…) and Le Café du Marché, a mainstay of that Barbican/Farringdon corner since 1986, is an authentic taste of France without leaving Zone 1. Set back from Charterhouse Square down a quiet cobbled mews, the restaurant instantly has the feel of a candlelit small town bistro, homely, cosy and full of stripped back wood, despite its size. Arriving on a Wednesday evening, we were the first in at 7pm but it quickly filled up, becoming a buzzing hive of merriment with the accompaniment of a pianist and double bass player just adding to its snug revelry.
As expected the menu comprises hearty French fare, an extensive wine list and a fine selection of cheeses, handwritten to add to the rustic feel. Seasonal produce is key, with autumn favourites including la cote de boeuf and bourguignon of Portobello mushrooms, among others, the dishes of head chef Tony Pineda, who brings his own test to classic dishes.
A rabbit terrine with quince compote was full of flavour, but it was the starter of gnocchi with wild mushrooms and parmesan that really blew our socks off; they ought to have that on the menu as a main, rich, buttery and heartening as a warm hug on a cold day. I’d pay to have their chef live in and make it for me daily. Either that or they should consider doing take out.
My main of hen pheasant with chestnuts, apple and calvados sauce was an autumnal delight; though the addition of more chestnuts wouldn’t have gone amiss, the flavour combination was spot on, with the sweetness of the apple pairing perfectly with the delicate gaminess of the pheasant. The day’s special of chicken, whilst very tasty, wasn’t a patch on the pheasant, though a shared bowl of frites didn’t last particularly long, so delectable they were.
Pro tip; make sure you leave room for dessert - half the joy of French cuisine is the pudding. The cheese selection, enjoyed with a glass of 2015 Côtes du Rhône, was sublime, while continuing the apple theme the tarte du jour was a completely perfect apple tart tatin, straight from the patisserie, with a healthy dose of calvados cream.
This is the best kind of hearty, classic French cooking, in a cosily buzzing atmosphere; get it in your little black book.
Laurel reviewed Le Cafe Du Marche on Mon 03 Dec 2018