|A Taste of France at Villandry Kitchen|
Emma Brophy continues her affaire de coeur with Gallic gastronomy
It’s a standing joke in my family that I put my stomach first when organising a holiday and everything else second, whilst the children are dreaming of surfing the waves, I’m busy planning excursions to savour the culinary delights of the area.
This year’s amusement was derived from our visit to San Sebastian. Everyone else - being husband, children, siblings and an assortment of nieces and nephews, saw first and foremost a town steeped in history, culture and wonderful architecture; I saw an opportunity to try out the numerous tapas bars that Jamie Oliver was so taken with in his last TV series. Well why else would one want to visit a city with the most Michelin starred restaurants per capita in the world if not for the food?
In fairness though it rarely takes long for the teasing to stop and the devouring of local delicacies to begin especially not when we stopped off at Château de Villandry on our long drive South this summer. “Hey we’ve got one of these in Chiswick haven’t we Mum?” said my youngest who was rather taken with the idea that the 16th century Chateau had taken its inspiration from a High Road eatery.
Whilst explaining that it was in fact the other way around I was reminded that I hadn’t visited Chiswick’s Villandry Kitchen for a while. I particularly like the Epiciere which sells artisan breads, charcuterie and gourmet meals. I find that if I manage to block out the sounds of the High Road, I can actually convince myself that I’m in the Friday morning market in Lourmarin (back to my stomach once again I’m afraid!).
With tans fading fast and a new term looming, my husband and I decided to treat ourselves to dinner at Villandry to drag out our holiday just a little longer.
The bistrot is decked out in traditional French style with a large bar area, mismatched wooden chairs and scrubbed tables. Candles and soft lighting set a relaxed tone and noise levels are on the comfortable side of buzzy.
The menu has everything you’d expect from a French bistrot along with a good selection of plats du jour.
We choose a goat’s cheese salad with broccoli, French beans, pine nuts and pumpkin seeds £5.65 and a pissaldiere – a traditional tart of puff pastry with anchovies, black olives, sautéed onions and mixed leaves £5.50 to start. Not much could go wrong with either of these dishes and nothing did. I particularly liked the pine nuts and pumpkin seeds with the goat’s cheese, not something I would have thought of. The stars of the pissaldiere were most certainly the anchovy fillets which clearly had a good pedigree.
After much deliberation I chose moules frites £10.95 over the special of slow roast pork belly for my main course whilst my husband opted for his French staple meal of steak frites (10oz rib eye with garlic butter and lambs lettuce) £15.95. The mussels were deliciously plump bathed in a creamy soup which had been perfectly seasoned (I frequently find it too salty for my taste). The steak was superb.
Although we love our wine, neither of us would claim to be knowledgeable. On many occasions this has proved an advantage because we ask for a recommendation. We decided we were in the mood for a light red, were presented with a bottle of Maison Rigal Malbec and learnt an interesting fact. We thought that Malbec – which we do like but thought would be a little heavy for a warm summer’s evening - originated from Argentina however; the Malbec grape was first taken to Mendonza by a French wine producer from Cahors. This ‘original’ Malbec was excellent, a real treat and worth the £18.25.
We shared a crème brulee with fruit compote £5.25 for dessert. I use the term 'shared' loosely as one spoonful in my book does not mean shared however, Nigel, who claims not to have a sweet tooth, enjoyed it immensely especially the tartness of the fruit compote which balanced out the creaminess of the crème brulee. A cappuccino £2.25 and an decaf Americano £1.95 finished things off nicely.
With a £3.50 bottle of Badoit the bill came to £65.75 before service which was first-rate and well rewarded.