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Who would have thought that there is a lovely French restaurant combined Jazz bar at the border of Elephant &Castle and Kennington? Even though I live rather close, I tend to ignore this area and if it wouldn’t be for the White Bear Theatre (a very decent pub theatre on Kennington Park Road) I would still be in ignorance about the fact that you can actually have a swell night out in Kennington.
Brasserie Toulouse Lautrec brings a little bit of French charm and ambiance to Elephant & Castle (where it is urgently needed). Designed in the rustic style of a French bistro there were only two problems with this otherwise comfy and relaxed place: it was far too cold and the open kitchen made my clothes smell awful. But the very friendly waiter sat me next to the heater and they have cute little paint brushes on their menu so I shall forgive them.
The set menu of 2 courses costs £20 and for 3 courses you pay £25. Having said that, you can save some money in case you have a Taste London card (50% off during the week). The menu reads well without any major surprises and without the pretense you often find in French restaurants in London. This also applies to the food which is simple and pleasant without any major highlights or disappointments.
The Gratinated Goats Cheese and Baby Mixed Leaf Salad With Artichokes and Red Peppers was well – a very good salad with goat’s cheese, nothing more and nothing less.
Jay Rayner, who we were told by the excited waiter had just dined there a couple of days before us, also had the Roasted Field Mushrooms and Bacon served on a Toasted Muffin with a Fried Duck Egg (he has written here about it comparing it to breakfast). This is a very valid association to make and for me it would have worked better with a poached egg as the fried egg dominated and the subtle flavours of the mushrooms got completely lost.
The Shank of Welsh lamb, Slow-Cooked for 24 Hours, Sauté Vegetables & a Creamy Mint sauce. The meat was lovely and tender and as good as it can get. However, I struggled a bit with the sauce – it solidified on the plate (I think a sign of too much starch thickener? ) and I didn’t like it at all. A shame, otherwise a lovely dish.
Then the Scallops on Bacon. I can’t remember anything about this dish, meaning that it can’t have impressed me much but it probably was not bad either.
So, you see I was not blown away by the food but I found it absolutely decent and enjoyable. And the evening was far from being over! After the dinner we went to the jazz bar on the first floor which was unexpectedly nice. Most of the tables were filled, the atmosphere was great and we had some more glasses red wine. While listening to the jazz band covering old classics we shared a plate of very decent French Cheeses of the Day.
There is jazz on every day and even without food it’s well worth a visit (here the programme). Don’t forget a warm jumper though, it is even colder in the jazz bar than in the actual restaurant.