Anne Flaherty enjoys the merging of French and Asian influences
Can a marriage of French cuisine and the spices of Asia and the Middle East ever be succesful? The owners of Putney's newest eatery, Bistro Vadouvan, certainly think so.
Bistro Vadouvan is a collaboration between two friends who grew up in the same town in India but only got to know each other while at college years later. Chef-patron Durga Misra forged a successful career in Michelin-starred restaurants in London (Capital, Belgravia, Kitchen, and Brasserie Chavot). Uttam Tripathy set up Indian street-food restaurant Potli, in King Street, Hammersmith.
Together they have set up Bistro Vadouvan in the smart Putney Wharf area, to raise the bar in local dining and to use the classic flavours of French cuisine with the spices of Asia and the Middle East, but with a lighter, contemporary, twist. I was looking forward to seeing how they would achieve this.
We arrived on a rainy midweek night, and were delighted to be welcomed into the light, spacious interior of the Bistro, which is located on the Wharf amongst a few other restaurants and pubs. The first impression is of a contemporary but cosy interior, terracotta-tiled floor, wooden ceilings and a bright blue banquette running across one wall of the dining area. There is an open kitchen and the walls are covered with quirky pieces of art.
We settled down to look at the menu to see how the chef would combine the two cuisines. French classics such as Bouillabaisse (classic French fish soup) come served with Middle Eastern flavours; a Pate de Campagne comes 'Spiced Up' while a Beef Tartare is combined with Smoked Aubergine and Tahini
I decided to start with a cocktail called a French Kiss, which was a blend of gin, prosecco and cassis, served in a champagne flute. My dining companion chose a Raspberry Punch with vodka, which was served in one of those jamjar glasses with a straw which are very popular at the moment.
The menu also has a selection of Snacks To Share, including a Goats Curd and Tapanade plate and a British Cheese plate.
For my starter, I opted for a Prawn, Crab and Cucumber Salad which is served with a Yuzu, Mint & Orange Dressing. The salad came in a ceramic bowl with very fresh crab and cucumber finely shredded, and prawns served with diced tomato, salad onions and red onions- it was light and refreshing and colourful. My companion opted for Sea Bream Ceviche, which was served with a Yuzo Kosho and a Hint of Green Chilli. Both were delicious and the Asian dressing added a freshness and piquancy.
Main course for me was Sea Bass with Celeriac Hummous, and Spiced Cauliflower. Sea bass has a delicate flavour but it was perfectly balanced by the celeriac, while the spiced cauliflower was like a subtle aloo gobi. This was accompanied by a Parsley & Lemon Confit. I thought this was a delicious example of how the chef managed to blend both cuisines, the classic celeriac given a twist by the addition of the spiced cauliflower.
The other main course we chose was Duck Leg Confit with Asian Flavours (above). The crispy duck leg came served on an aromatic gravy, almost like a soup or the popular Vietnamese Pho. The flavour was subtle but spicy and the addition of Asian vegetables gave a good crunchy texture to balance out the softness of the meat.
We shared Rosemary and Garlic chips, and some house white wine, a French wine which was crisp and not too dry, just enough to cut through the rich flavours of the sauces.
Dessert was almost a step too far for us, but it is difficult to refuse a Floating Island. This French classic consists of a mound of soft meringue on a lake of custard, and came served with a generous sprinkling of caramalised nuts and a swirl of caramel. Delicious, we polished if off very quickly between us.
Service was attentive and friendly and we felt relaxed and unhurried during our visit.
I thought Bistro Vadouvan was a really interesting concept and it was obvious that the chef is trying to do something new. I felt the food was prepared with care and attention to detail, a welcome change from many of the restaurants in our locality which seem to focus on either burgers or pizza and it is increasingly difficult to find individuality in cooking unless one goes to the very top end of the market.
Bistro Vadouvan has only been open a few weeks, and I predict it is likely to be a very popular local spot with locals in Putney. So if you believe that 'French & Spice is the variety of life' as Bistro Vadouvan say, it might be worth a try.
July 27, 2017