When I first visited Bloody French in September 2008 I said that... Bloody French in Notting Hill prides itself on being French. So there is tap water, there is bread at no charge and best of all there is no “discretionary” service charge. I get so annoyed with the London discretionary 12.5% service charge. It is not discretionary at all, and by being a set amount it gives no encouragement to give excellent or even just good service. So I am so happy when I go somewhere that lets you choose your own tip. Why don’t more places do this?
The other good thing about Bloody French is that a couple of week nights it is BYO. What a treat to bring your own wine. MTV boyfriend and I had been before on a weekend and had a lovely meal at which we resolved there and then to come back on a BYO weeknight. So off we went last night with our “House Guest” Sully clutching a bottle of very nice French red. The decor is fairly nice, plain with large windows facing onto Westbourne grove and solid wooden tables with place mats made from photocopies of Le Monde. So far, so good. The first disappointment of the night was the fact that of all the weeknights Bloody French is BYO, Wednesday is not one of them. So our nice bottle sat in the bag and we ordered a not half as good bottle of French red, Torraine Gamay (£18). If you go there, I wouldn’t order the Torraine Gamay. On our revist we got the right night for BYO (Sunday to Tuesday) so enjoyed a great bottle of Pfeiffer Shiraz which was a Christmas present.
All was not lost, they still had the tap water and the bread. The bread was good – super fresh baguette and generously refilled three (!) times. None of the entrees really grabbed us (and we had eaten way too much bread) so we went straight to mains. The choices were all French bistro staples: Sully opted for the lamb shank, MTV boyfriend (predictably) the steak and I ordered the lemon sole. Of these three, the lamb shank was probably the pick of the bunch it was slow braised and served with mashed potato and spinach. “Bloody good!” Sully said. MTV boyfriend’s steak was not such a success. He thought it was a little chewy and it was served with french fries which MTV boyfriend had been quite excited about. Comically, the french fries comprised only 6 french fries artistically arranged in a geometrical pattern on a side plate. MTV boyfriend was devastated. My lemon sole in a brown butter sauce was fairly bland and sauceless. The grilled vegetables it was served with were good, however the spinach had not been washed prior to steaming and so was still gritty.
On our revisit MTV boyfriend ordered the lamb shank ($14.50), still on the menu but now served with rice and a tiny pot of roasted potatoes and vegetables. I thought the lamb shank could have been slow cooked a little further as the meat was not really falling off the bone but the rich, glossy sauce was adequate compensation. The boeuf bourguinon ($12.90) was hearty stuff that didn’t try to dazzle with a nicely judged sauce and tender slow cooked chunks of beef nestled amongst shallots and lardons.
Bloody French redeemed itself somewhat with dessert. MTV boyfriend had the creme brulee as he cannot go past creme brulee on a menu. He could tell that it had been reheated but thought it was still decent enough. On our revisit, what a surprise, MTV boyfriend ordered the creme brulee again ($6). It had a thick caramel topping and perfect creamy interior but disappointingly it was served completely cold so it was clear that the top had not been caramalised immediately before serving.
I went for the chocolate pudding as I also find that hard to resist on a menu. It was divine. A crispy cake like exterior, and rich gooey chocolate spilling from the centre. Bloody French has so much going for it, however the general quality of the food was not fantastic on this visit (with the exception of Sully’s lamb shank and my dessert). We still gave them a good tip and felt much better for doing so given that we had a choice in the matter. Let that be a lesson to all the “discretionary” service charge places. If you go on one of the BYO nights, Bloody French is great value for money, our total bill came to £35. I think the food has improved since our last visit although don’t come expecting culinary fireworks.
Details: 149 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill W11 2RS Ph: 0207 727 7770 (Tube: Notting Hill Gate)