Le Vacherin

Tel: +44 (0)20 8742 2121
Address: 76-77 South Parade, Chiswick, London W4 5LF
Cuisine Type: French
Website: www.levacherin.co.uk
nearest tube station Chiswick Park, Turnham Green

Le Vacherin is a labour of love, far removed from the bland uniformity of formulaic chains or the style-over-substance philosophy of too many central London restaurants. Rather, Le Vacherin’s chef patron, Malcolm John, has created a neighbourhood restaurant serving traditional French food using top quality seasonal ingredients at keen prices, drawing inevitable and apt comparisons to Chez Bruce or La Trompette.

Le Vacherin would not be out of place in provincial France; from the simple yet homely décor to the unadulterated French menu (no pan-Asian nonsense here) and thoughtful wine list, again entirely French, to the unobtrusive French music in the background.

Service is welcoming and efficient. Overseen by restaurant manager Mario, we were soon sipping strawberry Bellinis, an unusual twist on this aperitif, the fresh fruit evocative of the glorious summer day. We were offered some good textured bread, organically sourced, in common – where possible – with all other produce used.

The selection of starters (£4.50 – £7.95) caters for all tastes. Those we sampled ranged from lighter dishes of white asparagus with pickled girolles and beetroot, or a summery salad of peppery rocket, poached pear, Roquefort and crispy Alsace bacon, to the rich and indulgent, such as foie gras, prepared in-house and served with fig chutney and toasted brioche, or baked egg with smoked haddock. For a dish as French as they come, try the Burgundy snails in garlic butter, or for something a little different, duck neck stuffed with duck hearts.

Main courses (£9.50 – £15.50) are more sophisticated, but reflect the same passion for high quality ingredients evident throughout the meal. The Provençale fish stew, its warming colour and delicate flavour from the addition of saffron, is the sort of dish that should be served with hunks of fresh bread for mopping up every last bit. Pearly diver-caught scallops were paired with a crumbly textured black pudding atop creamy mashed potato and accompanied by an intense morel sauce. Barbary duck breast was timed perfectly, the richness of the meat offset by the sweetness of poached peaches and an orange and black pepper sauce. However, our favourite was slow-cooked pork belly with apples, the contrast between the yieldingly tender meat and the crispy crackling making this the best pork belly I’ve eaten.

I’ll definitely be back to try the fillet with chips and Béarnaise sauce, and the Poulet des Landes, herb roasted chicken with tarragon sauce, as well as the regularly changing specials and seasonal menus, designed to take advantage of the freshest ingredients available during the year. Good value set lunch (£11.95 / £14.95 for 2/3 courses) and weekend brunch menus make return visits affordable.

There was no let-up in quality for the dessert course (£4.25 – £5.95). If anything, we finished on a high note with a molten-centred chocolate fondant, counter-balanced by a cooling scoop of Amaretto ice cream, and a silky prune and Armagnac tart, complemented with home-made vanilla ice cream. For me, though, poached peaches in Sauternes with goat’s cheese ice cream was most outstanding and memorable, the sheer audacity justified by the flawless execution. Truly noteworthy and wholeheartedly recommended.

We drank a light Pinot Blanc with our starters, switching to a Côtes du Rhône for the main course, and were recommended a surprisingly refreshing sweet wine for our desserts. The wine list contains a pleasing mix of vintages from the better known vineyards as well as some unusual choices for those who want a more in-depth exploration of French wine and, given the generous pricing (£12.50 – £49.50/bottle), you can afford to be adventurous.

Linger over coffees or a digestif, from a range that encompasses port, eaux de vie, and even marc, before strolling through the green or down to the river. If you never had reason to visit Chiswick before, Le Vacherin has now given you one.