Paris, London – Brasserie Gustave in South Kensington:
Almost equidistant from South Kensington and Gloucester Road tube stations, the Institut Francais and nearby Lycee Francais mark out a part of London sometimes called the ‘French Quarter’. Walk due South for 8 minutes or so and you’ll find Brasserie Gustave, on the corner of Sydney Street. The kind of place that could have been there for half a century, it opened just over a year ago.
Inside you’ll find traditional leather banquettes, French advertising posters on the wall and, a rather quirky bar in the basement.
The first entree on the list is terrine de foie gras de canard, there’s a confit de canard sur choucroute and for dessert you can (and should) have Crêpes Suzette à la Victor.
It would have been a shame not to indulge in some of the traditional French dishes, though I was just a little hesitant about ordering snails. Each snail, in a buttery, garlic and parsley sauce was hidden by a tiny crouton of fried bread. The serving dish was covered with a little twist of puff pastry too, which for some reason at the time seemed like a French man’s moustache, though I suspect it was actually meant to be a snail! I ordered 6 (£8) and would have found any more overwhelming.
Meanwhile the Hedonist was going decidedly off piste and indulging in a Mackerel Escabeche. A generous portion of fish for an £8 starter which he nevertheless managed to tuck away very very quickly. I had a mouthful and it was pleasantly citrus pickled.
Had I been in the company of another carnivore my choice of main dish would have almost certainly been Chateaubriand. When we visited it was offered as a grill at £60, now it has moved to ‘les plats’ and comes pan fried served with foie gras, spinach, truffle and Madeira jus for an extra £10. Either would have worked well if I’d been in a position to share. As it was, General Manager, Richard Weiss offered me the last of the Season’s grouse served ‘roti a l’Anglaise’. And, of course I loved every mouthful of the perfectly cooked well hung game bird
It did indeed come with the breast nicely protected by streaky bacon, proper game chips, watercress garnish served on a slice of toasted bread. I was happy, but then I do love all game! It’s quite tricky to roast game toward the end of the season, but this was perfectly tender and just that little bit pink close to the bone so that the meat wasn’t over dry.
Meanwhile the Hedonist was enjoying pave de morue salee maison, a salted piece of cod poached in milk and served with a black olive crust. A little closer to a classic French bistro dish perhaps, he seemed happy enough.
We shared dessert, that lovely retro classic of Crepes Suzette. In my book it would be worth visiting Brasserie Gustave just to watch these being made (and then enjoy the end result).
It must be one of the finest classical ‘theatre of dining’ experiences. Just make sure you leave enough room!
Starters here hover at around the £10 mark, with certain ingredients commanding a premium. Similarly, main courses are £20 – £30 and desserts all around £7-£8. There’s a substantial and at times pricey wine list, but I’d suggest asking Richard for his recommendations within your budget. He has the perfect heritage to give sound advice – as both a sommelier in Michelin restaurants and as beverage consultant for some of London’s best known restaurnats.
I really enjoyed dining at Brasserie Gustave. It’s an experience sufficiently retro to make me feel nostalgic without ever missing the point that, for the most part, the quality of food in restaurants has improved over the last thirty years. At least in my book.
4 Sydney Street,
London SW3 6PP
We dined as guests of Brasserie Gustave