Tel: +44 (0)20 8846 3850
Address: 111 Hammersmith Grove, Hammersmith W6 0NQ
Cuisine Type: French
Hammersmith (DISTRICT, PICCADILLY, HAMMERSMITH & CITY), Goldhawk Road (HAMMERSMITH & CITY)
Moro is the uber-hip restaurant opened by Sam and Sam Clarke, that has been guaranteed 3 month waiting lists for tables following the publication of a cookbook of the same name and celeb sightings. So, when I heard that the couple had opened a French restaurant in Hammersmith, I thought I’d get in there before tables became impossible to secure, and must admit that I was a little surprised that a Saturday night table was so easy to book three weeks in advance.
Maquis is located where you wouldn’t choose to put a restaurant. Walking down Hammersmith Grove, I became more and more convinced that we had the wrong address, as within minutes of leaving Hammersmith tube station, we appeared to be in deepest suburbia. Having rung the restaurant to confirm the address, we eventually found Maquis in a clearing, half way down the principally residential road.
The space is large, stark and cold, with high ceilings, wooden floors, bare walls and dark red banquettes down one side and a bar along another. Crystal chandeliers seemed out of place and the fact that only 3 other tables were occupied when we arrived served to accentuate the feeling that Maquis has not yet developed its own character and an identity with which it is comfortable.
Poilane-like bread to start was dense, heavy and tasteless, the wrong choice for a menu that features such rich and filling food. Starters included charcoal-grilled squid with rouille, pork rillettes tart with cornichons and frogs legs braised with white wine, parsley and garlic, but my date and I opted to share an aged gruyere and calvados fondue (£11), which can also be had as a main course for one (£12.50). There is only one word for it ? fantastic. In fact, it is worth going to Maquis for the fondue alone, particularly as I have not seen it served in any other London restaurant.
Mains featured sea bass “Auguste Escoffier”, roast rack of lamb with salsify and pumpkin gratin and slow cooked veal shank with morilles and tarragon. We tried charcoal-grilled turbot (£12.50), the delicate flavour of which was overpowered by the tapenade, whilst roast duck breast (£12.50) sat uneasily with celeriac and apple puree. In true French tradition, vegetarians are not well catered for, the only concession being a line at the bottom stating “We take pride in offering a plate of vegetables from today’s main dishes as a vegetarian alternative”. I would suggest that the words “take pride in” are superfluous.
To end the meal, we had a slice of chocolate, almond and Armagnac cake (£4), which achieved the impossible ? combining decadent richness with an unexpectedly light texture. Wines are predominantly French, subdivided by region, and reasonable at under £20 for most bottles.
By the end of the evening, the room had filled up to the point when it was rather noisy, so it may not be long before waiting lists become the norm. Go for the fondue before Maquis becomes the new Moro.