Chiswick and the area around Turnham Green offer a plethora of choice when it comes to middle-priced dining. The High Road is littered with the predictable and rather tired chains, offering a mediocre quality such that one could hardly claim a bounty of bistros. For this reason Charlotte’s Bistro is a very welcome addition to the otherwise lacklustre crown of middle-priced establishments.
Charlotte’s Bistro opened its doors in February 2010 on the site of a former Fishworks restaurant; two minutes walk from Turnham Green station. Over the last few years the team at Charlotte’s Bistro have acquired a fiercely loyal local following.
Fine Dining Guide visited on a Monday evening. Expecting this to be a quieter night for any establishment, we were impressed by the buzz, with over 40 of the 56 covers taken. There was also a sizeable crowd around the bar area.
It is perhaps not surprising that the team behind Charlotte’s Bistro have had such success in a relatively short space of time. The pedigree has been long established, with over 27 years experience of delivering quality at one of Ealing’s best-loved establishments, Charlotte’s Place. The formula has been expertly tweaked to meet the evident gap in the Chiswick market.
We arrived slightly too late to enjoy the Monday night gin school, a regular feature for July and August. Thankfully we were not too late to sample the 6 O’clock Gin, a brilliantly balanced Gin produced by Bramley and Gage in Thornbury, Gloucestershire.
Gin is a staple of the drinks menu, with lots of exciting choices to perfect the staple Gin and Tonic. There’s also an attractive selection of Gin Cocktails. We decided to partake of the Charlotte’s Cup (a house variation on Pimms) and the intriguingly named Bowler Hat Trick (gin with fresh melon juice) whilst pondering the food menu.
The restaurant itself is compact, yet comfortable. On acquiring the site, the current team covered the outdoor dining area with a large glass roof. This gives the best of both worlds, with a light airy dining space protected from the elements. The furnishings are simple, yet comfortable and in keeping with the Bistro feel.
The Menu offers a good variety and is reasonably priced. There are six or seven options for each course, with prices £24.95 for two course or £29.95 for three. This is even better value for those dining Monday-Friday lunchtimes with the same menu at £15.95 or £18.95. The wine list offers similar excellent value and has been expertly compiled, with wines by the glass and bottle. We sampled a Pinot Noir, Johanneshof-Reinisch (Austria), which at £38 felt like an absolute steal.
For the first course we both opted for fish. The potted salmon was delicately flavoured with the classic accompaniment of dill and was generously portioned in a rustic glass jar. The accompanying soda bread was dark and nutty and offered in ample quantity. The construction of the Whitebait brought new life to a much hackneyed dish. The fish was accompanied by a tangy and pungent garlic mayonnaise and balanced off with diced lemon flesh and croutons. Alternatives to start with included a terrine and soup.
The value for money offered by the menu is most evident in the selection of main courses, especially given the quality of ingredients and expert cooking in evidence from Head Chef Alan Barrins and his team. Side dishes such as buttered greens and Hand Cut Chips are extra at £3.50 a piece, but this is hardly expensive by comparison to some of the competition.
The braised short rib of Ruby Red Beef was an absolute delight, meltingly tender and cooked to perfection. The accompanying Heritage Tomato and Bread Salad was fresh and herbaceous with a subtle hint of basil pesto. The Chips were fat and crispy and incredibly moreish, a good accompaniment to both of the main courses. Our other choice was the crispy Creedy duck leg, again very tender, indeed, the epitome of a well-executed confit.
The dessert menu offered an array of classic bistro fare with a seasonal twist. The raspberry sorbet combined a velvety texture with intense flavour, nicely balanced with homemade butter biscuits. The Cranachan, which seemed to have great promise, was the only disappointment of the evening. The proportions of cream and raspberries were out of balance and the surfeit of cream and lacked booziness. Nevertheless, there were many enticing alternatives, including a very tempting vanilla cheesecake with seasonal berries. Cheese was another alternative available for a small supplement of £3.
With a good range of reasonably priced dessert wines and liqueurs to finish things off, the only question we were left with was why, considering the excellent quality and keen pricing, do others still choose mediocrity when there’s an option like Charlotte’s Bistro?
Postscript: Charlotte’s Bistrot rebranded Charlotte’s W4 (April 2015)