30 August 2013

Bermondsey with a French Twist: Casse-Croûte Review

When I was a kid, we often spent our summer holidays in France. I was a vegetarian and a fussy eater and it didn't go well. 20 years later and I'm no longer a veggie and I'm also much less fussy, but I was still a little nervous this morning when I checked the menu du jour for Casse-Croûte, the new French restaurant in my 'hood, and spotted the noticeable absence of poulet and bœuf.  C'est normal, hein? But after a bit of Googling, I decided to be brave and order a meal in a French restaurant that wasn't poulet rôti or filet de bœuf.

Le menu du jour

Pretty much all of the good restaurants in my new quartier are on Bermondsey Street and I've been eyeing the newest opening, Casse-Croûte (which means "snack"), with interest. Sitting at one of the tables on the pavement or on the red-checkered-tablecloth-clad tables inside, you could almost be at a bistro in a small French town, rather than a five-minute stroll from the mess of London Bridge station.

There are two sittings, at 6 pm and 8 pm, but when we arrived, soon after 6, the tiny restaurant was already bustling.

Le bar. Plus token Michelin Man.

We ordered a carafe of red and some tap water (carafe d'eau) and perused the menu, which offered three choices for each course. I don't like squid, and after establishing that the tête de veau wasn't exactly my kind of beef, my starter was, by default, the œuf à la coque. This was a boiled egg (singular) with a few very elegant but sparse soldiers, garnished with a thin slice of cheese and a wafer of ham. It was nice, but at £6, quite an expensive egg. My friend's squid, tomato and bacon seemed a little better value for money.

Egg and soldiers, à la française

I might have been persuaded to eat pigeon, had it not come garnished with mushrooms. Instead, I ordered the truffade as my main course, which is a sort of delicious, cheesy potato pancake. It came garnished with salad and some cured ham. Probably a good thing I'm not still a vegetarian! Again it was nice, but a slightly strange main course — my friend's pigeon was a little light on the carbs so we mixed and matched.

The truffade (and the pigeon in the background).

The puddings were a little easier. I went for the chocolat liégeois: chocolate and vanilla ice creams with hot chocolate sauce and lots of cream. It was really good, although I was slightly sad that the almond macaroon I saw on the menu earlier in the week didn't show up.

Overall, we had a lovely evening. Casse-Croûte is a cosy, friendly place with great atmosphere and good food that is certainly way off the well-trodden, French culinary track. The prices were a little on the high side (particularly the egg), but not compared to other restaurants on Bermondsey Street or, say, France. If you're looking for a very authentic French restau in SE1 with good cooking and an interesting menu, you should give Casse-Croûte a try. There is no online booking, so give them a call on 020 7407 2140 — and the 8 pm sitting fills up pretty quickly, so don't leave it too late to book.

Casse-Croûte. 109 Bermondsey Street, London, SE1 3XB (Tube: London Bridge). Website. Twitter.

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