232-236 Brompton Road
Tel: 020 7581 1101
Ticket to Burgundy please !
Cassis Bistro opened at the back end of last year on the former Oratory site in South Ken. Cassis is part of the slowly expanding MARC group which was founded and is headed by Marlon Abela. Mr Abela is a familiar face across the pond with his restaurants A Voce and Babbo and has focused on high end dining here in the capital too, with Umu, The Greenhouse and his private members clubs Morton’s flying the MARC flag in London. From my understanding Abela was well aware that his current portfolio was aimed well and clearly at the high end consumers and wanted to open a more affordable bistro.
The dining room is pleasant and has that clean expensive modern feel to it with slick Japanese looking furniture and a wood floor. The divide that separates the bar and dining room does however seem to resemble a cheap ready made Ikea kitchen with strips of frosted glass that have the names of herbs etched in to them. A little random I thought?
The theme is provencal with miniature pots of thyme accessorising the tables. An uber trendy gas fire sits in the corner of the room and looks somewhat out of place and would be more at home in a Verbier chalet but maybe whoever designed the room clearly knew who the clientele would be. Well groomed men with their winter tans and fat watches are accompanied by even better groomed women who look like they have come in to town for the week before heading back to the slopes or the Caribbean. These are the sort of clientele who never look tired or stressed. The sort of people who have everything done for them by someone and never have to do things such as restocking the salt in their dishwashers as theirs is Philippino and mine is Bosch. As our iron lady once said, her greatest joy was taking the fluff out of the drier that collects over time.
One of my greatest joys is looking at a menu and not knowing to order because everything looks and sounds so good. This wasn’t the case at Cassis. I found the menu fussy and everything read like it was put together by a chef who wants to prove a point by combing a lot of ingredients in to one dish. In fact the chef, David Escobar, is from the three Michelin starred Lameloise in Burgundy where I have had the privilege of eating once and goes down as one of my favourite ever meals.
The menu is split in ‘petit bouchees’ ranging from £2.50 to £6. There were two of us and we opted to a couple to start with. An egg mimosa with crab mayonnaise was half a boiled egg with a quenelle of crab delicately sitting on top. A fine and fresh taste from the cold white of the egg mixed well with the yolk and the crab. Pastis flambéed snails sitting in puff pasty and garlic butter were average but nothing special.
Next up were entrees ranging in price from £6.50 to £13. The goats cheese and beetroot salad, pancetta, lentil and quail eggs and thin slices of octopus, capers and tomato sauce vierge. The salad was your typical South Ken salad that ladies at lunch would order and to be fair was a good dish and plentiful although it did lack an overall punch, a dish that could easily be forgotten straight after eating it. On the other hand, the octopus was beautifully presented and Chef Escobar started to show some skills he had learnt at Lameloise. This was a simple dish that consisted of three flavours and the food started to do the talking.
I thought the selection of mains seemed somewhat confused. Two pasta dishes on the menu were like finding Michael Winner dining with Giles Coren and his sister Victoria – completely out of place. I opted for the roast Landes duck breast with a chickpea galette and cassis sauce. The duck was perfectly pink and the chickpea galette actually worked well with the duck as these are not two ingredients I would immeadiately think of pairing. A good dish but at £22 rather pricey for something you could order at a gastropub. We also opted for a special of pork and veal with black truffle on a bed of risotto. If this was a boxing match, this dish would have floored the duck in the first round. A superb medley of pork and veal cuts that melted in to the creamy risotto and the black truffle did its usual trick of adding that bit of magic. However, at £34 for this special of the day, Mr Abela needs to be careful to not slip back in to the Umu and Greenhouse price territory.
There is a wine list on the back of the menu and it delights me to see house wine kicking off the list at £17. However, ask to see the full wine list as there are some gems on it.
Cassis will always do well due to its location and the clientele it attracts. If I happen to be walking around South Ken or going to the V & A I would consider popping in for brunch or a coffee on the weekends but when you have the likes of Racine on your doorstep it would be hard to justify choosing Cassis.
I know Chef Escobar is not trying to emulate the food of Lameloise at Cassis but it is a shame he didn’t bring a little of bit of magic from the kitchen he worked in at Chagny.
Meal for two including wine and service £120