The Village Bistro

Tel: +44 (0)20 8340 0257/5165
Address: Highgate High Street, London N6 5JG
Cuisine Type: French
nearest tube station Highgate, Archway (NORTHERN)

Sandwiched between a couple of shops on Highgate High Street, The Village Bistro is such a tiny restaurant that you would be forgiven for taking a cursory glance, and thinking it was someone’s dining room. Entrance is via a little passageway, all wooden beams and paved with stone flags. The room itself does not permit more than a handful of (rather squashed together) tables, so make sure you book as the restaurant was full on the Saturday night that The Bloke and I visited.

Fresh bread and a couple of glasses of the house aperitif, which turned out to be Kir Royale, got us off to a good start while we browsed the menu. Predominantly French, but with a modern twist to some of the dishes, there are almost too many choices listed, and with a couple of specials for each course, there was, unlike Alice’s experience in Wonderland, nothing that had “EAT ME!” stamped on it. Having said that, the food, when it came, was very good.

A starter of smoked duck salad with chicory and cherry tomatoes (£5.50) was So simple, yet the combination of flavours and freshness of the ingredients made this dish exceptional. The Bloke opted for one of the specials, grilled lambs kidneys wrapped in bacon with Puy lentils (£5.25), the mere thought of which was enough to induce a furred-artery heart attack. As usual, his tastebuds over-ruled any concerns about health, maintaining (or regaining…?) figure and general well-being, and I had to concur when he declared it delicious. The kidneys had been cooked just-so, the right side of that elusive point when they cease to be melting and creamy and become tough and crumbly, and were well-paired with the lentils, which had just enough bite to prevent the whole dish from having the consistency of mashed potato.

The Bloke was also taken by a main course from the Specials menu, but I was less convinced by the veal escalope topped with a fried egg (£12.95). Fried egg? To be fair, it did taste nicer than it sounded (and looked), but still, what were they thinking? Maybe they should have stuck to the classic dishes that they appeared to do best, as the skill and attention to detail were abundantly evident from my choice of artichoke hearts with a duxelle of wild mushrooms, poached egg, asparagus and hollandaise sauce (£10.95), and, unusually for me, I could not fault a thing. The wine list is neither voluminous nor particularly adventurous, but neither would that have suited the character of The Village Bistro. We found a couple of glasses of serviceable red, and there are a reasonable number of wines by the glass.

By this point, the Bloke was ready to collapse with cholesterol overdose, so passed on dessert. I had a chocolate something or other (£4.50) – pleasant, but not memorable enough to create a lasting impression. What does linger though is the conviction that we have found a good local restaurant that we are determined to revisit.

– Tracy Yam, 3/2003