A taste of France for under £8

Le Vacherin proves to be "a blessed local phenomenon"


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There has been a recent spate of newspapers disappearing the wrong way out of letterboxes on my street and all because of a small coupon. A little sleuthing revealed that this wasn’t just any coupon; this cherished chitty entitled the holder to steak, fries and a glass of wine for an incredible £7.99 in one of Chiswick’s finest dining rooms - Le Vacherin.

Hailed by restaurants critics far and wide, this local Gallic gastronomic gem was once described by cynic of all things Chiswick AA Gill as a “blessed local phenomenon” and this time I couldn't agree with him more.

Le Vacherin is tucked away on South Parade, neighbouring The Duke public house and the number 94 bus terminus. Its unassuming frontage hides a classic French dining room with pale cream walls, chandelier, dark wooden chairs and white paper table cloths over starched linen. 

For those who have been feasting on Rick Stein’s most transmission entitled 'A French Odyssey' (BBC2), Le Vacherin brings to mind the kind of restaurant in which Stein is filmed eating simple, cheap and delicious French food, lamenting that no such places exist in the UK. Well, in my humble opinion, he is wrong on one point.  There is such a place right here in Chiswick although I would graciously concede this his euro would without doubt go further than my pound.

My husband and I visited Le Vacherin with our legally acquired coupon on Sunday evening. Fellow early bird diners comprised of groups of friends, a few couples and two families with impeccably behaved offspring.

Our waitress, the most personable of French citizens exuding Gallic charm from every pore, took our promotional meal order without even a hint of a condescending sniff and, after placing a flawlessly starched linen napkin on each of our laps, she brought our glasses of Duras Cabernet Sauvignon and a basket of fresh French bread. We had only a few minutes mouth-watering interval before our steaks were produced, both perfectly cooked, with a bowl of fries each and a dish of haricot vert (£3.00 extra).

The rump steak, cooked into a red wine and shallot sauce, had a taste so unadulterated, it transported us back to holidays in France conjuring memories of pavement cafes in Paris and dining under plane trees in Provence. Upon finishing his last succulent morsel, my husband placed his knife and fork on his empty plate, wiped his mouth and said simply “world class!”  We ordered a bottle of very pleasant Duras Cabernet Sauvignon (£13.40) to drink with an Assiette de Fromages (£6.95), a selection of french cheeses that ranged from a mild camembert to a robust roquefort and served with red grapes, celery sticks and oatcakes.

The final bill, with a well earned 12.5% service charge added, was £44.25 and, we felt, worth every single penny. Even in the knowledge that ordering a la carte will raise the bill considerably, we booked our table there and then for the next installment of our very own French odyssey.

Emma Brophy


October 5, 2005