Tel: +44 (0)20 8789 3323
Address: 96-98 Felsham Road, London SW15
Cuisine Type: modern European
nearest tube station Putney Bridge (DISTRICT)

Tucked in among the pretty houses and quiet, leafy streets of Putney, a stone’s throw from the High Street, is what looks like someone’s conservatory. Actually it’s Emile’s, a Tardis of a restaurant that can actually seat well over 100 in its various rooms, including one downstairs that would make a great party venue. However those in the know obviously prefer the conservatory, especially on a summer evening as the light gradually fades and you can watch the stars come out.

Carl, the manager, bounces over to our table with a blackboard listing tonight’s choices – a good and varied selection of about ten starters and main courses. The deal here is a flat rate of £15.50 for two, or £18.50 for three courses, with a few choices attracting a supplemental cost. The dishes all sound fascinating – marinated tiger prawns on coconut rice with a sweet and sour dressing, char grilled Haloumi cheese with asparagus and caperberries are possible starters, but the Thai fish cake wins. It comes beautifully presented with bits and pieces of greenery and something I can’t identify (was it a potato cake?), accompanied by a mild chilli sauce. The sauce actually had more flavour than the fish cake, but overall it was good.

The emphasis on presentation continues in the main courses: chicken breast stuffed with goat’s cheese mousse was a work of art, and here the flavour was also a triumph. Grilled sea bream was also much appreciated. Our puddings were good but not special – a dark chocolate and hazelnut mousse tasted as if the main ingredient was courtesy of Nutella, and a crème brûlée was a little insipid. However by that stage, after a second bottle of wine, we didn’t really care. (The wine list is very tempting, though perhaps too focused on New Zealand for some tastes. Pudding wines are also delicious.)

The best thing about Emile’s, however, is the relaxed atmosphere, greatly assisted by the engaging personality of the manager (and Emile himself, who put in an appearance late in the evening). Our waiter was slightly unnerving (pouring wine into the wine cooler by accident did make us wonder) but otherwise efficient, and we left – very late – after a delightful conversation with the diners at the next table. Now how often does that happen in London? I rest my case.

Oops, nearly forgot. I promised to mention the toilets. Carl has just repainted them with his own fair hands and is very proud of the fact. Yes, Carl, they’re lovely.