The key to Retro Bistrot's success is its blend of rustic, gutsy food with a flamboyant touch. Kerstin Kühn talks to head chef Andrew West
Retro Bistrot in Teddington is one of south west London's most celebrated restaurants. Winner of the Good Food Guide London Restaurant of the Year 2012, and holder of two AA red rosettes, it manages to deliver a true sense of France, both in its food and ambience, and with a touch of luxury at that.
Run by owner Vincent Gerbeau, whose Jedward hairstyle does little to distract from his flamboyant personality and Gallic passion and charm, the key to Retro Bistrot's success is its blend of rustic, gutsy and accomplished food with a unique touch of personal service.
There's a set menu, priced at £13.95 for three courses at lunch and £19.95 at dinner; the Á la carte; a special vegetarian menu and the Retro Classics menu.
The latter is a showcase for the kind of stalwarts no serious French bistro can do without.
"We've gradually started to build and increase the Retro Menu and it features real rustic French classics," says West.
Indeed it offers bold, flavoursome dishes, featuring starters such as snails with garlic butter (£9.95 for six); and moules mariniere, provenÁ§al or kaffir (£6.90 for 500g); next to mains like duck confit with white bean cassoulet (£13.50); chateaubriand with truffle pomme purée and braised vegetables (£27.50 for one; £55 for two); and a dessert of pistachio soufflé with raspberry coulis and yogurt ice-cream (£6.50).
The Á la carte continues the theme of unfussy, accomplished cuisine, although it's here where West gets to push the boat out a little further. "The Á la carte is more about showcasing my skills and the kind of food I like," he explains.
Starters include soupe Á l'oignon with marinated frogs' legs and cauliflower beignet (£6.95) and lobster and crayfish ravioli with lemongrass and lime consommé (£11.50).
"This dish is inspired by my time working with Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's," explains West. "We make the pasta fresh and fill it with a lobster, crayfish and salmon mousse and serve it with a consommé so it's nice and light." The chef adds that keeping things light is important: "I want diners to come and have three courses and not feel heavy or sick at the end of it."
Among the main courses the assiette of West Country lamb (£21.95) stood out on a recent visit. "I like introducing different cuts to mix things up a bit," says West, who serves rump alongside confit belly and sweetbread, with herb spÁ¤tzle, shallot purée, courgette and heritage tomato and a black olive reduction.
A signature dish is the loin of Scottish venison and slow-cooked haunch (£25.95). West gives the dish a bit of a twist with his interpretation of bone marrow. Instead of serving an actual bone, he hollows out a parsnip and fills it with the braised venison. The dish is completed with a parsnip fondant and an intense chocolate and juniper jus.
On to desserts and the star of the show is the crème brulée (£8.50), which is infused with tonka beans, giving it a vanilla and almond flavour, and served demoulded with vanilla jelly and a cinnamon madeleine. Other desserts include an assiette of hot and cold apples (£6.50) comprising Granny Smith apple parfait, apple tart and mini apple doughnuts.
With its vibrant, avant-garde décor, Retro Bistrot stands out from its neighbours in Teddington. Its flamboyant style, matched by the attentive service and authentic French menu with West's personal touch, mean it's a restaurant the locals can be proud of.
SAMPLE DISHES FROM THE MENU
Loin of rabbit poached and roasted, confit leg hash, carrot purée and Retro raisins £8.95
Terrine de foie gras, orange and endive compot and mini brioche £12.50
Pan-roasted smoked chestnut gnocchi, Jerusalem artichoke, crispy kale and baby vegetables £13.50
Roasted breast of guinea fowl, braised leg, fondant potato, Savoy cabbage and wild mushroom sauce £18.95
Hot chocolate fondant, hazelnut ice-cream, espresso macaroons £6.50
114-116 High Street
Middlesex TW11 8JB
020 8977 2239
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