Feeding time

In Paris the lunch I ate at Le Colombier would probably have cost between half and two thirds of the ton I shelled out at this very polished former pub behind the hospitals on Fulham Road. London prices are not of course entirely ascribable to the greed of London restaurateurs: leases and rents are, like freeholds, vastly more expensive here; but then staff costs are immeasurably higher there...
Le Colombier is far from the usual pub makeover — it hardly betrays its origins. The bar is not a pub bar, the cooking is not gastropub cooking, the service is correct and diligent. There is a certain pleasure to be taken in mere passive participation in an operation which is conducted with such consummate professionalism. So why were the chips so poor? It is perhaps cruel to pick on this item, but it is the contrast with the proficiency of the rest of the cooking which causes one to note how lacklustre they were.

Otherwise, the kitchen’s undemonstrative craft is beyond reproach. The menu is of coursesafety first, politely respectful of the fearful fastidiousness which afflicts the appetite of les angliches.

It was good, however, to see oeufs en meurette on offer, even better to find them so well accomplished: the eggs were perfectly poached; the red wine and smoked bacon sauce was big but not steroid-enhanced.
Rillettes were nicely savoury and the cornichons with them were sharp. Beef with béarnaise was not up to the standard of that at prospectGrill: the meat was timed all right but it was not as long hung and the sauce was on the sloppy side. A veal chop was, on the other hand, a superb bit of meat. To drink: DomaineOtt’srosé, which is perhaps the most delicious rosé I know. That’s not intended as faint praise.

54 Garrick Street, London WC2 (0171-379 0412). Lunch and dinner Mon to Sat. £60 plus.

Le Colombier
6145 Dovehouse Street, London SW3 (0171-351 1155).Lunch and dinner every day.£100.