Our choice of Charlotte's Bistro followed a 'shout out' to Twitter for good places to eat in the Chiswick area and the Bistro clearly has a fan base. On entering, we were greeted with a smile (which always works for us), walked past a well stocked bar and were taken up to the dining area that was modern, comfortable, and with a glass roof, flooded with natural light.
The menu too is fresh and offered us seemingly attractive plates that if carried off, would see the Bistro be a good step up from the average neighbourhood restaurant. While a la carte prices indicated starters at around the £7.50 mark and mains at the £16 level, we then read about their 'trial'. What they describe on the website as a 'Set Lunch Steal', in their own words:
For the months of March and April we are running an amazing trial... Rather than serving a set lunch menu Monday to Saturday, guests are welcome to choose two or three course from Wesley's full A La Carte.
The price of the the set lunch? Two courses £12.95, three courses £15.95. Now that we've said all that, you might want to read it again, two or three times. We did, literally. Three courses for less than the normal price of a single main, we thought we had misunderstood, we started discussing it. What is the catch? Surely there's a loophole, tiny portions perhaps, or maybe it will be full of exclusions and supplements. Actually, no, as we found, it's an open, honest and transparent offer; we're shocked and delighted in equal measure. There's also a £1 cover charge, usually a bug bear for us, but on this occasion rather than hidden in the small print, its made clear and explained up front and at £15.95 for the food, you simply can't quibble about this.
This was undoubtedly the highlight of the meal and is very much Charlotte's Bistro's own dish. It recalled to mind however another dish at another restaurant that similarly thrilled us: Massimo Bottura's Osteria Francescana, the dish: the potato that wants to be a truffle. What a result for the Bistro then.
The other starter was Grilled Mackerel, crab, Yorkshire rhubarb, radish, ginger ponzu dressing. As a plate, it was a joy to have placed in front of you: vibrant and enticing. Tasting as good as it looks, the small cut rhubarb an excellent foil to the mackerel but with the ginger ponzu dressing providing nice additional layers.
A chocolate pot for dessert, and a coconut and tarragon rice pudding rounded out the meal. The latter lacked impact but this was a minor slip and the only one of the meal; we really don't mind, we're already charmed. A friend who had joined us for coffee enjoyed the cheese plate which is also pictured below.
We have not come across Head Chef Wesley Smalley before (twitter @wesleysmalley) but he clearly cares passionately about the food and has a lot of talent. Michelin stars could well be in his future. Front of House is overseen by Matthew Mawtus (twitter @Matt_Mawtus) who has created a friendly and convivial atmosphere in the restaurant.
In conclusion, this set lunch offer, described as a 'trial' for March and April, really will make your day. If you like eating out, take advantage of it while it runs, and make sure you order the potato truffle. The quality of the food for the price charged is simply astonishing and must surely rate as one of the best restaurant deals available not just in London but in the country right now.
We chanced upon it and count ourselves lucky. Had we paid the full a la carte price for the meal we would have still been happy for the quality is there. July last year saw us visit Chiswick's Michelin starred La Trompette and conclude that it was a 'good neighbourhood restaurant'. On the strength of today, Charlotte's Bistro is a great neighbourhood restaurant and if we lived closer, we think they would see rather a lot of us I'm sure.
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