Monday, 18 April 2016

Gastronhome, Clapham, London - restaurant review

“I never thought it would happen/With me and the girl from Clapham/Out on the windy common/That night I ain’t forgotten…” So begins ‘Up The Junction’, the epic story-song by Squeeze, a tale of love found, love lost, heartbreak and solace found in bar, street and bookie. It is melancholy but in a quintessentially English way, like an American country music song, transported to London. (Lyricist Chris Difford had wanted to be the David Bowie of Deptford, but Squeeze proved to be something different – a typicially South London band with an ear for a melody.)

Gastronhome is like a little corner of perfect classical French gastronomy transported to South London. Situated in Clapham, on the Battersea borders, it is an unlikely location for the kind of fine French food you would expect in the West End or Mayfair. The reviews on Tripadvisor are overwhelmingly glowing, except for one somewhat grumpy fellow complaining it is in the “wrong area of London”, as if South London has no right to expect a high quality eatery.

You can choose from a seasonal  “A la carte” menu. Starters range from £10-13, mains are £20-26, desserts £9-12. We had, however, heard about another option… a five course “surprise” tasting menu for £49 per person. Feeling in need of a treat on a rainy weekday lunchtime, and with time on our hands, we simply couldn’t resist!

Our starter was Asparagus in a parmesan crust, with asparagus foam, home pickled bell onion, poached quail egg and parmesan crumble. 

The asparagus and crust made a very pleasing combination, with the strength of the parmesan and crispiness of the crust contrasting well with the asparagus itself. I personally could have done with the asparagus being a little less cooked, but my personal tastes are such that I truly like my asparagus done al dente. The very delicately pickled onion retained its original sweetness, and the lack of any vinegary tang meant the onion complimented the asparagus foam’s gentle flavours. The cute little quail’s egg was soft poached, providing a tiny dose of oozy creaminess in the dish. A good start.

The fish course was cod two ways; pan fried cod and a cod brandade, served with a piperade and broad beans.

The pan fried cod had a wonderfully crispy skin, with moist flaky fresh. Cooked to the point where it is literally “just cooked” is how I love my fish. The cod brandade was herby, with a light crunch on the outside. The piperade of pepper, tomato, garlic and a little bit of onion tasted of Summer sunshine in the South of France. Broad beans when young and tender are the perfect sign of the Mediterranean Spring. These were tender, sweet and delicious. 

The meat course was lamb, roasted aubergine, aubergine puree with Pomme Dauphine. 

The delectable lamb, cooked beautifully so that it was rich, yet soft and tender was served with Pomme Dauphine, a classic French way to prepare potatoes; a fantastic but non diet type of potato puff created by mashing potatoes with choux pastry and making little deep fried dumplings. The combination created and indulgent but wonderful combination of flavour and texture that surely only the French could have devised. It is super. 

We washed it down with some wonderfully smooth and rich Ripasso red from Italy, a wine I mention and post a picture of because I intend to seek it out for home consumption.

The cheese course was up next. Since our waitress has been so capable in choosing our wines for us, we asked her to help us with choosing our cheeses. 

Our two cheese were ones which were very different from each other; Le Montrachet and Le Salers.

Our cheeses were served with some crunchy, artisan crackers full of seeds, crunch and flavour. You need  a good foil for your cheese, and these were it. But what about the cheeses?

The Montrachet is a goat cheese from Burgundy. Obviously, this is the same region of France where Burgundy wine and Beef Bourguignon is from. It is aged in a vine leaf to provide protection and impart flavour. The cheese was creamy and rich, but with a delicate, sophisticated flavour. 

The Salers is a cow milk cheese from Auvergne (the home of Blu d’Auvergne, a famous creamy blue cheese). This cheese was quite solid, and had a nutty, satisfying flavour with the slightest touch of Umami. The cheese, Salers, holds the same name as the cow that provides its milk. A poetic and lovely mark of respect. 

Finally, the dessert was a tarte au citron (lemon tart) with meringue and flowers. 

As you can see, it is a beautifully deconstructed lemon tart, with a tangy lemon cream on top of light, fluffy pastry with a slight crunch on the outside. It’s an ingenious way of ensuring none of the pastry is made soggy by lemon filling. I enjoyed every spoonful of this inventive and delightful pudding. 

Gastronome is a charmingly sweet little restaurant, whose modest size belies its culinary punch. The food was excellent, as you can see. Special mention must go to the front of house staff who are passionate about food and wine, keen to make recommendations and do everything they can to make your experience a pleasure. 

You never thought it would happen in Clapham? Think again. 

59 Lavender Hill, Battersea, SW11 5QN, 
020 3417 5639

Snigdha and her lunch companions ate as ordinary customers at Gastronhome, paying for their lunch in full. Snigdha has not received any incentive, financial or otherwise for posting this review, which is unsolicited. 

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