All reader reviews by timfg

Le Cassoulet

Just come back from lunch at Le Cassoulet - one of those rare, rare days when, at half-term, my partner and I find ourselves at home, on leave, and both the children elsewhere... So a chance to have a decent lunch at that (local!) restaurant that's getting such good reviews.

I've read others (Jay Rayner I think) who weren't impressed by the decor; I liked it. Part plain, part clashing, it didn't feel too much like it had been 'designed', more that a restaurant had been opened in a room already that way. Feel of the place was good - relaxed, comfortable, perhaps half-full on a Tuesday luchtime. A very pleasant place to have lunch and enjoy conversation.

Food was very, very good. Others have raved over the cassoulet, so no need for me to (they're right). In addition, we had the Coq an Vin. an egg cocotte with smoked haddock, a pungent chicken liver pate and brioche, ile flottante and a very generous creme brulee. Pretty much faultless - I would eat here again and again. At a set £14.50ph for lunch, this is exceptional value. £15 for a carafe of decent red (of which there are many on offer) is pretty fair pricing too. The final bill was £59, with a gin and tonic and after I'd slashed the (pre-applied) service charge. You'd struggle to eat and drink this well pretty much anywhere for that kind of sum and that's why I will be going back...

But if the service is as incompetent next time as it was this, I won't be going back a third time. Every meal has natural pauses when you're waiting for your table to be attended - to collect dishes, to take orders, to deliver menus etc. Unless it was the kitchen we were waiting on, every one lasted almost long enough to complain...but not quite. It took us 2 hours and 20 minutes to get through a three-course lunch with coffee, and it wasn't because we dithered over the food, it was far too good for that. We weren't offered aperitifs - the waitress just arrived (after 15 minutes) to take our orders and seemed a bit surprised when I wanted a G&T. We received no bread, until I asked for it, half-way though our starter - and the response I got was 'Oh, I have ordered it...', which I'm not really interested in: It's not here. I had to ask for the wine-list, as our starters arrived, hence had no wine until just before our main-courses. I wasn't offered the chance to check the wine (which I decline generally, but I expect to be asked). The waitress filled my partner's glass without checking whether she wanted any - she didn't - and then remedied the situation by pouring my partner's glass into mine (already filled), rather than back into the carafe. So I had 1/2 a pint of wine, save the several drops she left on the table. There were only two staff waiting, at peak, about 30 covers and one was clearly a trainee - but there was no sense of urgency in either of them as they meandered around the restaurant, and no sense that they were watching the tables to see what might be needed. Never unpleasant, or unfriendly, but really not at all competent.

Get this right Le Cassoulet: It's important, its absence took the gloss off an otherwise very good meal and you'll lose a regular customer if I have the same experience next time. I really hope it was a one-off.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Overall rating 7 stars
Food 9 | Service 1 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 9

Theo Randall

Ate here with my partner as a late celebration of my 40th birthday in the post-Christmas lull, having read Jay Rayner's assessment in the Observer - he considered it the best meal he'd eaten this year.

And I'd agree - the food is just phenomenal, the ingredients clearly the best the restaurant can source on the day. The service was faultless and friendly, without being overbearing - which can be the case when a restaurant is relatively empty, as it was on this Thursday lunchtime after the excess of Christmas. Nicest touch was the offer to give us four half-desserts for the price of two, as we clearly couldn't decide when confronted with an array of all-too-tempting dishes. Even better was that this turned up as a large platter of samplers of pretty much the whole dessert menu. We gorged and gorged again, just fantastic.

The lunch menu is very reasonably priced at £23 for starter-mid-main and £4.50 for dessert, but this can quickly double if you select a la carte, as one of us did. Neither is this the sort of venue where you'll want to be too heavy on the aperitifs, at £9 for a G&T, albeit a perfectly mixed hefty double. Four courses each, a couple of G&Ts, a bottle of Barolo and a glass of Chardonnay - oh, and coffee - came to £180, incl service. But I think this this the best value meal we've eaten for some time, perhaps ever: It was really that good.

Saturday, January 06, 2007
Overall rating 10 stars
Food 10 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 10

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