|New Team Adds Lustre To Riverside Location|
Anne Flaherty visits Pissarro
Location is the most important factor in selling a house and it can also be applied to restaurants, particularly in Chiswick.
When the Devonshire Arms was closed after less than a year, locals shook their heads and said being situated so far away from the High Road was a factor in its demise.
There are many reasons why restaurants close but this is a difficult time to be an independent operator at a time when Chiswick is being sought after by a number of chains.
All of which brings me to my recent visit to Pissarro- the well-known restaurant in Corney Reach. It must have one of the best locations in Chiswick. It’s impossible to go for a walk along the river on a sunny Sunday afternoon without feeling envious of diners inside Pissarro sipping wine and looking out at the wonderful views.
But though the restaurant has the advantage of location, it’s also had a fractured history, with several different owners over the years and even a closure some years ago following a fire.
Some of the former Devonshire Arms staff (including a chef) have come to Pissarro and for the past few months have been working hard to attract diners back to the river and away from the High Road and its proliferation of chains.
I was curious to see how they were getting on as I hadn’t eaten in the restaurant in a long time. So when I paid a visit one Thursday evening, I was glad to see that the place was quite busy. Jazz music played softly in the background as we were welcomed.
The interior remains as I recalled it, the restaurant divided in two, an inside room with wooden floors and brick walls, and the Conservatory with its window boxes , trailing vines and views across the river. We were seated near the front of the Conservatory which allowed us a good view of all the happenings outside on that sunny evening. Fresh bread and water quickly arrived as we surveyed the menu.
There were six starters ranging in price from £5.50 to £ 7.50. The most inexpensive was soup of the day, and in between was a choice of Cornish mackerel with beetroot and horseradish tian; Terrine of braised rabbit leg; Salad of marinated artichokes with broad beans, cherry tomatoes and toasted pine nuts. We opted for the remaining two options on the menu.
For me, the Gin-cured salmon (below) with cucumber, radish and pink grapefruit salad and apple syrup. The salmon was lightly-cured with the faintest aroma of juniper, and very daintily presented. I enjoyed the honeyed flavour of the syrup cutting across the sharpness of the grapefruit.
My companion chose the squid, which had been lightly dipped in cornflour and deep-fried. This came served with two mayonnaise dips, one with garlic and the other with wasabi. The beauty of this was that the amount of wasabi was just right- too much and it would have been overpowering, too little and it would have been ordinary mayo. Full marks for the starters.
If I have one complaint it was that the service was a little slow- it took 45 minutes to get our starters to the table from the time of arrival. Perhaps we just noticed this because we were very hungry, but it is something the staff must watch for. Hungry diners get grumpy fairly quickly.
The main courses arrived fairly promptly. My companion chose the rib-eye steak, served with shallot and tarragon butter, watercress and thick-cut chips. This is priced at £19.00
For my main course, I chose pan-fried fillet of sea bream, with seared scallops, pea puree, spinach and chive croquette. The chef amended the croquette to fried potatoes as I am on a gluten-free diet. Other choices on the Mains menu included Parma-ham wrapped Monkfish;Roast rump of lamb with root vegetable gratin and aubergine puree; Herb-crusted confit duck leg, with fondant potatoes, and braised puy lentils, and for the vegetarians, wild mushroom, aubergine and blue cheese tart. The prices range from £12.50 for the vegetarian dish to £19.00 for the steak.
Verdict: the sea bream (above)and the scallops were fresh. I wasn’t keen on the chunky texture of the pea puree, but it seems increasingly popular to serve it with a chunky mashed texture rather than a smooth puree these days. I’ve been served it twice this way in the past few weeks at local restaurants. The spinach was a fine pairing with the sea-bream.
The steak was very good, tender and succulent with chips that put my companion in a good mood. The portions are generous- nobody will go home hungry from Pissarro.
As we had been out for drinks earlier, I stuck to a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and we had sparkling water. However, the menu includes a good selection of of white wine ranging in price from £17 for a bottle of Mausanne/Sauvignon, to the most expensive, a Sancerre ( 2010) priced at £38. There are eighteen red wines on offer, from the cheapest, a Tempranillo at £17 to a £50 bottle of Chateau l’Ecuyeur 2006). There are four Rose wines, and sparkling wines are also available.
Desserts were excellent. An amazing Strawberry Sundae (beware it is highly calorific and has lots of whipped cream), and a delicious whole honey Baked Peach with toasted almond iced parfait for me.
Other Pudding options were a dark chocolate mousse with roasted plums; gooseberry cheesecake; Raspberry crème brulee with lemon shortbread, or the selection of cheeses and icecreams/sorbets.
Service was attentive and friendly, and we were amused to see a large white cat roaming throughout the restaurant . Oscar was a legacy from a previous owner. Like most restaurant cats he seemed very satisfied with himself. There was no begging or mewling. Oscar was content to throw an imperious look our way, and wander off.
In a nutshell, it’s wonderful to see a new team in place at Pissarro and I hope they succeed in their new venture. They have already won an award for Best Local Restaurant.
I would be happy to return with friends or a family group. It’s the perfect location for a birthday celebration or a wedding and I believe those bookings are coming in briskly.
Corney Reach Way Chiswick W4 2TR
Tel: 0208 994 3111
August 27, 2012