To dine as the Francophiles do, or just as the French do, one must have a strong air of Gallic-flavoured superiority for all things French. Richard Weiss, manager and sommelier of Brasserie Gustave sums this attitude up so perfectly when he explains the origins of wine to us.
Wine is made of fermented grape juice made in France. Made anywhere else, it’s called Plonk
He says this so charmingly and with such a twinkle in his eye, it’s impossible to do anything but laugh heartily! Richard is a man who knows a lot about wine, Mum gives him a broad outline of what she likes and within minutes he’s back with a ‘Duc des Nauves’ Merlot from the Chateau le Puy family, known as one of the best wines in the world it also has the benefit of being a Biodynamic wine, so really you’re doing your bit for the environment!
Located a short walk away from South Kensington, Brasserie Gustave is a little slice of France here in London, with a cheery yellow room with posters and red banquettes.
The menu is all the classics you will have heard about from all the greats of French cooking. Whilst dunking hunks of Potato bread and fresh baguettes into chunks of butter, we ponder. It’s hard to concentrate though because we get sidetracked into thoughts of bread. Is there anything quite so heavenly as freshly made bread? Probably not, not unless it’s French freshly made bread. This is a people that know their way around a Baguette.
snails, nay I mean escargots, asparagus with hollandaise and all sorts of other delectable dishes that I am putting on my faux Francais accent to say. In the end, I opt for the Wild Hedgerow garlic soup with frogs legs and Mum can’t resist the sound of that Bone Marrow. The garlic soup isn’t quite as garlickly pungent as I would have hoped but truthfully I’ve never had wild garlic before so that’s not a criticism! I like the flavour though, it’s subtle and the crispy fried legs are a nice addition. Mum is in seventh heaven over her Bone Marrow, liberally spreading it on her little pieces of toast that come with it, it’s perfectly cooked and seasoned and is going down a real treat.
Skate isn’t typically French, but I need a light touch for mains while Mum goes more traditionnelle with her Roasted Duck breast. My fish is immensely filling, much more than you’d expect from a light fish and the red pepper coulis and broad beans accompanying it are just as flavourful and tasty as the main event! Richard tells us he’s experimenting with a few Duck suppliers and is so keen on knowing our feedback that Mum admits that it’s a tiny bit tougher than she’d hoped for! He immediately offers to bring out something else, but it is still incredibly tasty and she’s happy to carry on – in any case, this brand of duck is soon to be banished and another supplier sourced to make this as succulent a dish as it should be!
If there’s one place you NEED to have dessert then it would be a French establishment – Mum opts for the traditional Crepe Suzette and I opt for the entirely non-traditional Warm pineapple served with a caramel sauce. I know, it’s hardly French but I can’t resist a warm pineapple, it’s reminiscent of NZ summers for me and I can’t turn it down. The pineapple comes swimming in a spicy caramel sauce that if required, I could happily take a bath in, the touch of spice in it offsetting the ice-cream and sweetness of the caramel perfectly. Admittedly you couldn’t drink too much of this sauce without risking instant diabetes, but it’s lovely. It’s now off the menu as we come into the summer months, but I hope it will be back for the cold seasons!
In order to make Mum’s Crepe Suzette, a little portable gas stove comes winging it’s way out – crepes should ideally be a day old so they are dryer and better able to absorb the sauce but today we’re having ours freshly made. I’m new to Crepes Suzette and they’re a heady mix of Orange, caramel and liqueur, flambeed in front of you for a grand finish. It’s rich, it’s decadent but ultimately a little bit too sweet for us and something probably best shared amongst two. That way, you can add the cheese selection to your order and dip in between both!
Service is friendly and efficient, helped along by Richard’s attentive wine (and menu) help and all in all, this is a good comforting spot of dinner to eat some good food, drink some good wine and relax. Which is after all what dinners are made for.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Brasserie Gustave