|Back at Carvosso's at 210|
Rediscovering that the High Road wine bar and cafe also has a restaurant
This year ‘Carvosso’s at 210’, to give it its full name, is just celebrating its third birthday. It has already become something of a Chiswick institution if only because its prime location makes it the ideal spot to rendezvous with a friend. I've always treated is as a place where the evening starts but never where the evening finishes but I now think I may have been wrong.
The old court house in the High Road on the corner of Windmill Road, morphed easily into Carvosso’s, a modern continental style bar, that serves food, coffee and booze all day. But, after a one-off lunch there in its early days, my friend and I have never been back to the restaurant. True, we’ve done everything else there - had coffee by the lovely fire in the winter, sipped white wine in the back garden in the summer and celebrated whatever needed celebrating in the upstairs room, but we’ve never been back to eat.
Which is why it seemed like a good idea when she suggested we gave it another go. After all, lots of people seem to like it, were we missing a trick here and should we be treating Carvosso’s as more than just a supplier of liquids?
It’s very up market. On arrival I asked for a glass of Sauvignon Blanc only to be asked which sort I wanted. As one whose choice is normally Sainsbury’s or M&S I couldn’t answer, but I was rescued by Paul Carvosso, who ordered in French and I got a lovely glass of my favourite wine, served ice cold with lemony flavours at the start and iron filings at the end.
Paul is the man who gave Carvosso’s its name, and it’s under his very steady hand that it has got to where it is today. Paul is a restaurateur par excellence with a string of successes to his name, one of which is Chiswick’s Pissarro’s on the River. At Carvosso's he is in charge of front of house, greeting the customers as they arrive and walking round the restaurant and bar to check that everything is OK and every one’s happy.
But what’s the food like? I’d call it comfort food for grown-ups. It’s rich and creamy with sophisticated flavours and there’s plenty of it. The menu’s a mix of classic European given a bit of a modern twist but there’s nothing to frighten the horses. Nine starters and 12 main courses mean there’s plenty to choose from and vegetarians are well catered for with three vegetarian dishes among the starters and two in the mains.
As soon as Friend and I sat down, a basket of fresh bread appeared on the table, and it came with butter and olive oil with balsamic vinegar. This was a nice touch as you usually get one or the other, never both. We did justice to it as we studied the menu and after much deliberation we were ready to order.
Friend started with beef Carpaccio with rocket, parmesan and caper berries and she declared herself to be very pleased with it. “The beef was melting, the parmesan freshly shaved and the caper berries was huge, fresh and tasty with no hint of sharpness,” she said.
I had caramelized onion and baby artichoke tart with crème fraiche and it was scrummy. I love caramelized onions and I love artichoke so to have the two together on a base of light puff pastry – what can I say?.
For my main course I had roasted aubergine with chickpea pepperonata and goats cheese. This is an interesting mix and one I hadn’t come across before, so doubts came flooding in. Would the aubergine be properly cooked, would the chickpeas come out of a can with a telltale taste of tin, and would the goat’s cheese be nice?
I needn’t have worried, the aubergine was properly cooked, the chickpea pepperonata didn’t taste metallic and, with its topping of melting goats cheese, it was an inspired combination. My only regret was that I’d polished off all my starter so I didn’t have room to finish this one.
Friend chose baked monkfish wrapped in Parma ham with creamed leeks and baby spinach. She is a very good cook and a bit of a foodie so it came under very close scrutiny. A badly made sauce can be the ruin of any dish, but this one was smooth, delicately flavoured and, she said, perfect. And because monkfish is one of her favourites, she give the dish full marks.
The wine list is pages and pages long, and I’m sure it’s very good reading for folk who really know their wines. We don’t, so we called on the services of our waiter for help, told him what we wanted, a very dry rosé and he – clever man - recommended Chateau Fonscombe, Coteaux d’Aix Provence 2007. Which was exactly what we asked for and such a cute shade of pink.
The waiter who helped with the wine was also our waiter for the evening and was happy to explain the dishes to us. The service was friendly without being familiar, efficient without being overbearing. And although they filled our glasses as they passed our table, they weren’t hanging about all the time ready to pounce every time we took a sip.
Once we’d had a little rest we decided to tackle the puddings and these were something else. I undid a week’s work at the gym with a chocolate brownie with vanilla ice-cream and chocolate sauce while Friend undid a month at Weight Watchers with a tarte tatin with vanilla ice-cream.
The brownie was interesting as it managed to be light and fluffy while still being substantially chocolaty, and the tarte tatin was exactly what a tarte tatin should be. I’m sorry to say we couldn’t finish them but we gave it our best shot.
It’s true, I'm enthusiastic about the place, it is lovely and the attention to detail shows, but I do have one niggle – the noise.
The restaurant doors were open onto the courtyard which was full of drinkers and smokers, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but as the night went on and the drinkers got more drunk the noise spilled into the restaurant, it’s a problem that often besets restaurants with open plan, adjacent bars. But if you’d come here for a special occasion – first date or wedding anniversary, say – and were feeling mellow after you lovely meal with wine and all the trimmings, the merry-making of the of folk in the courtyard garden could spoil the moment. It’s probably quieter in the winter when the windows are closed.
But overall, I’m happy to say, we have discovered the other side of Carvosso’s. We had a lovely meal, with lovely wine and excellent service. And would we go back? Most certainly we would but we won’t leave it so long next time.Penny Flood
August 23, 2009