Tel: +44 (0)20 7581 1785
Address: 104 Draycott Avenue, SW3
Cuisine Type: French
Stepping through the door of Le Suquet is like being transported in a Tardis from the urban-chic of South Kensington to the homely charm of a seaside bistro across the Channel. A nautical theme emphasises the dominance of seafood on the menu – quaint pictures with maritime themes, models of sailing boats, knick-knacks of fish and other sea life, a ship’s wheel on the ceiling, wooden buckets as wine coolers – rather tacky, but Le Suquet just about pulls it off in an exaggerated more-French-than-the-French kitsch kind of way.
While looking through the menus, the waiter brought a basket of bread, tiny prawns in their shells and snails with mayonnaise as appetisers, which later appeared on our bill as a £1/person cover charge. This is one of my restaurant bugbears; if they are going to charge for these extras, waiters should have the courtesy to ask customers if they want them, rather than leaving them to discover this at the bill stage when they can’t do anything about it – or they should slap an extra £1 onto the price of main courses and be done with it. It’s not the money, just the principle of the matter. Rant over, on to the food…
For our lunchtime visit, we opted for the set menu (£17/person) which, with five options for each course, offers good value and ample choice. We were both tempted by the escargots to start, but The Bloke went for the soupe de poisson, a concentrated broth like bouillabaisse but without the chunks of fish and shellfish, that came with all the proper trimmings – crunchy croutons of toasted baguette, rouille and grated Parmesan – whilst I ordered the tartare de saumon, as fresh as any fish eaten raw should be and accessorised with a perky vinaigrette-dressed salad.
For my main course I opted for the poisson du jour, grilled skate wing; The Bloke had langue de boeuf, one of those slightly unfashionable dishes that you see so rarely on menus. Both dishes, accessorised with baby potatoes and creamed spinach of a rather disconcerting consistency, were generous portions, but perhaps overly so for sedentary London lifestyles: we were too full to finish them.
We rounded off with chocolate cake (him), more like a chocolate parfait surrounded by sponge cake and served with cold crème anglaise, and tarte tatin (me), which one might euphemistically describe as “home-made” – chunks of apple that were too large to be delicate atop pastry that was marginally too heavy. Well-made coffees are included in the price.
Service, while efficient and helpful (the staff were very good at accommodating babies and children, perhaps explaining the disproportionate number of families dining here), had an air of authentic French insouciance.
We drank a bottle of house wine which, at £15, surpassed our expectations by being neither vinegar-strength acidic nor furry-mouth-aftertaste unpleasant. In fact, the wine list is reasonably priced – well, by Kensington standards, anyway. The French bistro experience stops at the bill, when the Tardis transports you unceremoniously back to central London.
Having said that, we paid about £60 for 3 courses, a bottle of wine, service and cover charge (OK, I’ve said my piece), which wouldn’t get you very far in Bibendum, across the road. We’d popped into the Oyster bar earlier to find a fairly long queue, so my recommendation is to go a little further out of your way to Le Suquet instead.