We had a meal last week at le Cafe Anglais, 13th June 2009, and it was less than mediocre (mediocre being the standard of a chain restaurant like Cafe Rouge).
Both our fish courses, one turbot at £28 not inclusive of sides, the other sea trout at £21, came with a sloppy serving of salt water slick on our plates, and, save the sea salt, the meal was bland.
In concert with warm white wine, we were offered ice at our table to cool it down.
Now, I'm a huge fan, but that was a dramatic sad decline all of a sudden, that I really was not expecting.
Review dated 13 December 2008
I hadn't realised that Rowley Leigh had a restaurant.
So our not having set foot on London soil since leaving Kew 7 years ago, this seemed the perfect reason to venture back.
LE CAFÉ ANGLAIS is how a London restaurant should be.
& that all important service gets 10/10.
The atmosphere is one of walking on the decks of an old ocean liner.
& the food is stunning. Not that it's creative genius, it's just it's perfectly pitched for us.
I haven't felt this good about a dining experience since the Bibendum restaurant back in 1999 for Sunday lunch.
The kitchen area is open plan, I do like that, & the chef Rowley Leigh is cooking in full view, I do like that too.
A drink at the dinky bar zone, and we stroll to our generous space of a table. There doesn't appear to be a bad seat in the house.
& that menu!
I wasn't the least bit interested in having "a roast", but I'm not so sure now, having seen the meats on parade at the kitchen front.
Nope, a different choice I think, that old mantra - something I haven't cooked at home.
My husband chooses very wisely indeed, the beef hash, I try it, it's deliciously good. Each part of the dish is discernible, and the gravy bold. How does he make that, I wonder.
I select the foie gras terrine, foie gras sourced in France, the terrine made in house - I did ask. It's like cool cream, I thought the terrine from the Alsace was great, but this was superior. I'd love the recipe, but I don't ask.
Now the wine.
We've been to the Cahors region in summer, my husband swimming up and down in the young plan d'eau lake - strivng for the perfect swimming stroke - whilst I paint it. So we order the Cahors Cuvée Maurin 2004 Domaine de La Berangeraie; the uncle of the gite owners where we stayed has a vineyard, one of 240, it may even be his, who knows.
We have something in common with the member of staff who serves us, casually remarking his granny lives 20 miles from Cahors too.
It's that service again, relaxed, professional & never intrusive.
The main plate. I know my husband likes it a lot, as he asks if I can recreate it at home.
He has ordered the pheasant & red cabbage, plus his favourite vegetable, steamed spinach. He could have had the spinach with cream but doesn't enjoy it that way one little bit.
I choose rabbit. Rabbit leg and breast with beetroot and chilli, plus my favourite potato, gratin dauphinois.
Both meals are succulent for different reasons. And Tony points out that the spinach is divine, & that's no mean feat.
I'd love to recreate the rabbit, but already I'm troubled by the fact my husband doesn't eat bunnies - he heroically tries my dish sans meat. I don't want to jiggling before I've even started, so I'll just have to leave my intentions be, and resign the rabbit dish back into the realms of a memory of the restaurant.
One criticism, there's high seasoning in the dishes (say "a lot of salt" Gill). But I always find that in France restaurants too.
So now we wind down the evening. We don't order sweets, my husband never has them and I don't like eating alone.
As we take our leave of our the table for the evening, we get a gentlemanly wave in acknowledgement of our presence by Rowley Leigh.
I do like that a lot.
LE CAFÉ ANGLAIS, nearest tube Queensway & Bayswater
8 Porchester Gardens
tel: 020 7221 1415