|There's A New Bistro In Town|
We speak to restaurateur Alex Wentham about Charlotte's
There can be little doubt that Charlotte's Place has long been at the epicentre of Ealing Common’s culinary world. Indeed the restaurant has been synonymous with fine dining for more than 25 years, something that is unparalleled in Chiswick albeit the likes of Le Vacherin and La Trompette have made decent inroads.
However, this weekend saw the launch of Charlotte’s sister restaurant Charlotte’s Bistro on Turnham Green Terrace.
It takes a brave person to open a restaurant in the current climate, even braver, I believe, to open in Chiswick where diners expect the highest standards of food and service and demand consistency and good value for money.
That's a tall order even for a restaurateur as experienced as Alex Wretham who owns both sites.
I met Alex on Monday following his soft opening. “It was quite a weekend,” he explained although he didn’t let his evident exhaustion stop him from jumping up every two minutes to offer copies of menus to each person who showed an interest in the bistro. It was this hands on pr which had led to so many people wanting to visit the restaurant during the soft opening weekend meant for family and friends, otherwise known as the harshest critics!
“The kitchen staff have been flat out, so much so that we decided only to do the set menu this lunchtime to give them time to prep properly for the a la carte this evening.”
Sitting at the bar, something that Alex is particularly proud of, he explains that Charlotte’s is based on an American style bistro which is reflected in the menu.
“If you research the word Bistro, you’ll find it means fast, local and unpretentious and that’s what we’ve done here.
"The chef over in Charlotte’s Place calls what we do ‘crowd pleasing food’ so we’ve got a mix of American, French and English dishes on the menu.”
It’s nigh on impossible not to be charmed by Alex and his passion for the restaurant business which began after an argument about pocket money resulted in him taking a kitchen job at Charlotte’s Place at the age of 15. “Well it was a bit about money and bit because the waitresses were really cute. Of course I didn’t think about how unattractive I was covered in dirty dish water at the end of shift so it didn’t work out quite how I planned!”
Move forward a few years and I asked Alex why he thought he could make a success of the bistro considering he's opened in the midst of Chiswick’s new restaurant boom. “Is this is USP question?” he asked hoping that I’d help him out. I had my own thoughts but wanted to hear his. “Real service and personality,” he decided. “It’s not about me; it’s about every person that serves a table here. Staff take ownership of their tables, they have to really care about the customers’ experience here. You can’t teach that, you can’t teach personality, it’s about the person you employ and how they fit into the team.”
After he apologises for the hundredth time about being interrupted, I let Alex off the interview hook and enjoy lunch with a friend along with a surprising number of fellow diners considering it was Monday lunchtime and the first real day of trading for Charlotte’s.
I was delighted to see that the wine list featured carafes – perfect for lunchtime when one glass is too little and two is too much if there’s any chance of getting any work done that afternoon. The Italian house white was not only very well priced, it was a real gem.
Other pleasures included a nifty water filter system from which bottles of the still or sparkling variety can be filled on demand, the fennel seed and olive breads presented on a wooden platter and, my particular favourite, the Reblochon Tartiflette which is quite simply a dish of utter decadent gorgeousness.
I have great plans which involve me, the aforementioned tartiflette and a gutsy glass of red at Charlotte’s bar sometime very soon but only after I’ve managed to work off the last one.