Lately I’ve really started to fall in love with classic French food. It amazing how good a piece of lettuce can become if you just drizzle it with the right amount of a well seasoned dressing. Sadly, where I live the closest you can get to a French restaurant would be either a expensive Michelin starred restaurant, or the British chain Cafe Rouge. Admittedly Cafe Rouge can serve nice food, but meh. It is a chain, so the authenticity feels paper thin.
My poor suffering partner knows when I’m in a grumpy mood. I tend to rant about injustices I see and read about, and can be a down right pissant. Few things can turn it around, usually just a good nights sleep. Sadly, a few weeks back I was in such a mood.
A shame, as my partner and I were headed into London for a night of Ceilidh dancing (yes, very Nova Scotian), as you do. However, seeing as how neither of us ate before boarding the train, I took a quick look at local restaurants in the Primrose Hill area (for those unfamiliar with the area, Primrose Hill is like Chelsea, except people actually live there). A little French bistro kept popping up in searches, L’Absinthe Primrose Hill. In my pessimistic mood, I booked it. Fully expecting it to be nothing more than a slightly independent version of Cafe Rouge, but triple the price as its London.
I was wrong.
Somehow, the owner JC, has managed to create a great little French Bistro in the centre of a posh English city. The atmosphere was classic French. Tables that are a little too close to each other, so if you wanted too you could eavesdrop into their conversations. You could smell the kitchen, and all the staff spoke French to communicate with each other. The decor, simple, and a little random. Lovely white walls, with some inexplicable yellow/green paint with writing on it. Pictures, mostly of place with the owner in it, and even a few children’s drawings near the servery. They didn’t bother with music, instead all you could hear is the sound of people enjoying their meals. Tellingly, many seemed to be locals.
As for the food, simple, but oh so tasty. A true bistro. It wasn’t bothering with foams and smoke to make you excited about the food. Having decided on the set menu, I started with pickled herrings and a potato salad. The herrings had a tang of acidity, while the potato salad was a very fresh combination of new potatoes, shallots, parsley and white wine vinegar. For the mains, I opted for the paillard of chicken with salad and croutons, my partner; steak frites. The chicken was perfectly cooked, with a good amount of seasoning. The salad with a simple dijon vinaigrette matched it well. The steak frites too was apparently delicious, seeing as the speed to which it was devoured. Although, was slightly disappointed to see the frites were not freshly made, by likely of the frozen variety. Making the meal come together though, was the wine. A really nice bottle, as recommended by the owner.
Essentially, this meal did what few else have done before. Got me out of my grumpy mood. More than that, it made us wish we weren’t about to go dancing, and instead could sit in the restaurant all night enjoying more of the lovely wine and atmosphere. L’Absinthe knows what it wants to be, and stays true to it. In the process it made for a great evening, and made me wish I could afford the local house prices to make it my local.
- Meal for two with a bottle of wine and 10% tip: £63
- Recommended for: First dates, 26nd dates, and those looking for a ‘local’ restaurant.
- Not recommended for: Those seeking advanced gastronomy skills, or a more uptight style of service.
Picture courtesy of Laissez Fare on Flickr.