Wednesday 14 October 2009

Le Cassoulet

I've heard many good things about Le Cassoulet. Malcolm John's restaurant is located in deepest, darkest Croydon and I was surprised to find bloggers trekking out there to visit it. Handily enough, Croydon is mere 20 minute train ride for me. This made it prime pick for my birthday lunch with my parents, as it's half way for us.

Arriving in South Croydon, it struck me as an unsual place to have a restaurant awarded a Bib Gourmand by Michelin. It's located on a quiet high street, not a soul in sight save one lone hobo, who jittered up and down the stretch no less than 3 times in as many hours. Entering the restaurant, it was virtually empty and we were seated. Fresh warm bread was brought out with room temperature butters, one of which was a delicious anchovy butter. Oh how I love anchovies.

To start, I couldn't resist the steak tartare (above), though I know of a friend who raves about the chicken liver parfait. I was hoping one of my parents would order the parfait so that I could snaffle some, but they went for the escargots. While my dish was amusingly presented, I really enjoyed this. With properly hand minced beef, I was able to regulate exactly how much egg yolk went in (just a touch) and how many capers, gherkins and shallots would season it (all of it). We were off to a good start.

After much lingering over the menu, I went for the oxtail ravioli with celeriac puree and chanterelles.

While the pasta wasn't as silky smooth and thin as the example I had at Le Querce, the filling was meaty and had a great depth of flavour. The chanterelles added a great earthy flavour and were cooked well. A comforting dish, though I'd have prefered a little less celeriac puree, and a bit more of the sauce to moisten it more.

Dad felt it was his duty to have the eponymous cassoulet. Unfortunately it was a little burnt on top - I think I would have complained, but Pops is terribly British. Nevertheless, he enjoyed it, especially as he found nuggets of duck hearts. Having procured myself a little taste the white beans were perfectly cooked and didn't melt into a mush, as it can sometimes too. Intensely flavoured with duck and pork, it was a real rib sticker. It's something I'd really like to recreate at home.

Mum's razor clams in a Calvados and parsley cream sauce was a generous portion. The meat was sweet and tender, the sauce deceptively light, making a great chip-dip. The frites served with this dish deserve a mention. They were wonderfully crunchy and salty, encasing a fluffy centre and were perhaps the best example that I've had this year - high praise, as I have munched rather a lot of frites.

Though I was pretty full by this point, I decided to to share the tarte tatin, with vanilla ice cream. Having been told it would be a 20 minute wait, we uncouthly popped out for a quick smoke and the time passed by pleasantly. The tarte was served at the table, and it really was the highlight of the meal. The apples were cooked so that they were soft enough to cut with a spoon, but not mushy. A light caramel sweetened the dish, while the flaky, buttery pastry was a thing of great beauty. I would return for this alone.

Throughout the meal, our server was sweet and unobtrusive. She seemed a little confused at times ("what does the dish come with, do I need any sides?" "Erm... do you want any sides?") but did her job well, especially as the restaurant filled up to bustling as the afternoon went on.

For a 3 course lunch from an extensive set menu at £20, this is excellent value. Yes, there were faults with the meal such as a slightly burnt cassoulet, escargots that needed more garlic, but nevertheless I thought there was good skill behind the dishes and it was great hearty fare. I will definitely be returning; there's chicken liver parfait and chateaubriand to be sampled. Another great local(ish) discovery.

Le Cassoulet

18 Selsdon Road
South Croydon

Tel: 020 8633 1818


Le Cassoulet on Urbanspoon


Gastro1 said...

I wish Le Cassoulet or Le Vacherin were nearer my home as would go more often.

Seems you and your folks had a an enjoyable meal and I will have to try that Tarte Tatin next time even though I will probably have Cassoulet again !

Manuel said...

that's a tremendous price for the tartare looks delish....

happy birthday (belated I assume)

Boo said...

Nice review Lizzie, I rather like Croyden for shopping but have never had a decent meal there.

I love steak tartare, this offering looks very pretty and I've not had cassoulet for a few years, this has reminded me how much I like it.

Seems like an ideal venue for a birthday meal.

tehbus said...

I love Le Cassoulet and really have the urge to try the other two Malcolm John restaurants. I can definitely vouch for the chateaubriand!

Oh, and theres a bus that goes directly from Camberwell almost straight outside Le Cassoulet ;)

George@CulinaryTravels said...

The food looks beautiful. Seems a great place to go.

Ollie said...

This is just my favourite kind of food. I had a brilliant meal at Le Vacherin earlier this year.

With you on the presentation of that tartare - looks extremely strange. The razor clams look terrific.

An American in London said...

Your post reminds me that it's been almost a year since I was at Le Cassoulet, and from the looks and sounds of your recent meal there, a revisit is long overdue. Chicken liver parfait, here I come . . . .

Chris Pople said...

Yeah I'm sure it's lovely and all, but what's it doing in flippin' Croydon?! Suppose I'll just have to get on the train and find out.

Browners said...

Sounds great. I'm keen to go just for the "oxtail ravioli with celeriac puree and chanterelles". Some of my favourite things. But Croydon?

Greedy Girl said...

I'm a born and bred Croydon gal (and almost not ashamed to admit it) and Le Cassoulet has become a regular haunt - if you can stand the chavs that come with being in that part of the world then it's definitely worth a visit. As is Fish & Grill, Malcolm John's other restaurant in South Croydon. The food is always brilliant in both places. Enjoy!

Kake said...

The presentation of that steak tartare looks very similar to the version I had at their sister restaurant, Le Vacherin in Chiswick:

Helen said...

Blimey, that is good value!! I wouldn't have been able to resist the tartare either, or that delicious sounding anchovy butter. This is definitely going on the list.

Fillyerboots said...

Simple French food really, but very nicely done. Worth the schlep.

Patrick said...

What's the correct way to eat Steak tartare? Do you mix everything together and then eat, or mix a little beef and egg yolk together and then put some of the other things on the same forkful and eat?

I've only ever eaten a miniature version of it that came on the side of something else at Corrigans.

Anonymous said...

Used to pop to Le Cass when I was working in a GP near Croydon. It is a decent place but I prefer Malcomn's other venture (Fish & Grill) which is down the road. I suppose it didn't help that the annoying manager told me that I was not allowed to take photos as it was company policy - which was absolute codswhallop given that I was at Fish & Grill 3 days before and John was in the kitchen himself.

Food.By Mark. said...

That is a funny looking tartare isn't it? I've only been to Le Cassoulet the once and I loved the Chicken Liver Parfait... but I can't for the life of me remember what I ate as a main...

Hollow Legs said...

Gastro1 - We had a really nice time, thanks. Definitely recommend the tarte tatin.

Manuel - thank you! It was very good value.

Boo - I've never been shopping in Croydon, perhaps I should - Oxford St at the weekend is a nightmare. There's also a stall selling those doughy pretzels which I LOVE.

Tehbus - I've had my eye on Fish & Grill too...

George - yes, it was all nicely presented.

Ollie - I must confess to some food envy when the razor clams arrived.

AAIL - Yes, I can't wait to try the parfait next time - it's easy to warrant a second visit with such good prices.

Chris - the people of Croydon need to eat too...

Browners - yes, Croydon. Or Le Vacherin, their sister restaurant, might be more Browners-friendly.

AHM - good to hear the Fish & Grill is good too. I intend on trying it soon.

Kake - exaclty the same, I'd say!

HElen - I thought you'd like the anchovy butter :)

Fillyerboots - not so easy to find simple French food for those prices, so I'd agree its worth the schlep.

Patrick - I wasn't aware that there was a right and proper way - I just mixed it all up, shoved some on the toast and gobbled it up.

Genuineness - sorry to hear they said that - they had no problems with me taking photos, though I was very discreet.

Food by Mark - Yes, the starter did make me chuckle. not remembering the main? That doesn't bode well...

SPJ said...

The food is nice. I've been several times, including birthday trips.
However, the service has driven me to distraction, it's completely haphazard. On my first visit (when the restaurant was fairly new, in fairness), I came close to walking out, so long was the wait before offering a drink, a menu, or offering to take an order. And I'm not a particularly fussy person when it comes to service.

I would thoroughly recommend Albert's Table, a bit closer into town (49 South End). It's a little more basic, and more 'New British' than Le Cassoulet's French. The lunch prix fixe in particular is startling value. I've only been once, but I'm keen to return.