'Sublimely delicious and brimming with original ideas'

Bistro Vadouvan

Open Tue 5.30pm–10pm, Wed–Fri midday–3pm and 5.30pm–10pm, Sat midday–10pm, Sun midday–9pm

The blurb:

‘Blending the essence of French cuisine with spices of the Orient.

‘Bistro Vadouvan combines classical French cuisine with the subtleties of Middle Eastern and Asian flavours, creating mouth-watering and original dishes. Our chef patron’s Michelin-starred background ensures our dishes are unique, perfectly balanced and utterly delicious. All our food is prepared with freshly sourced, high quality ingredients and presented with beautiful simplicity in the modern rustic surrounds of our new Putney Wharf restaurant. At its heart, Bistro Vadouvan is about providing luxurious comfort food packed with flavour in relaxed surrounds while delivering great value.

‘The only one of its kind in London, Bistro Vadouvan subtly blends the essence of French cuisine with spices of the Orient. Chef-patron Durga’s inspiration comes from his Michelin-starred background, having worked with the likes of Eric Chavot, Joel Antunes and Pascal Proyart during his career. The concept was born as the allure of traditional French cuisine—using cream, butter and fats—is on the wane, despite the flavours still being hugely popular and much loved. Introducing two clay ovens, a bespoke BBQ section and subtle elements of Middle Eastern and Asian spices to classical French dishes gives a lighter, contemporary touch to the food, that brings out the best in the cuisine while being more in keeping with today’s tastes.’

The style

Riverside Parisian bistro with an exotic twist. Watching the lean, skirt-aproned staff deftly weaving between circular tables and café chairs on Putney Wharf, we could almost have been on the rive gauche of the Seine—had it not been for the hordes of besuited office workers braying at high volume outside Carluccio’s, bang next door.

Inside, it’s light and airy, with floor to high-ceiling windows, stripped beams, simple pine tables and chairs and a striking teal leather banquette running the length of one of the walls flanked by a long refectory table. An attractive display of wines and barrels is kept behind a glass wall so clean I had to tap it to check it was real.

The crowd

Difficult to tell as the bistro had only just opened when we visited in May (blame a badly broken arm and useless right hand for the lateness of this review) and customers were on the scarce side; it seemed a shame that ever-packed Carluccio’s was in quite such close proximity. I do hope that by now it’s as bustling and busy as it deserves, and not only with the inevitable Sloaney locals. There’s a touch of magic about the place that should be drawing crowds from far and wide.

The food

Sublimely delicious and brimming with original ideas, the other end of the spectrum from the reliable but dull food-by-numbers offered by its popular neighbour. To kick off we shared the Spiced up Pate de Campagne (₤6.50), described on the menu as ‘Country Style Terrine Of Pork And Chicken Liver Spiced Up With Smoked Paprika Served With Guendillas Chili And Apple Mostarda’. The coarse pate was served with crisp rustic toasts, the double whammy kick of spice, both subtle (paprika) and punchy (chilli), cutting through its rich porkiness.

My starter of Spiced Bouillabaisse Provencal (₤8.00), (‘Classic Fish Soup With Rope Mussels, Potatoes, Chorizo & Middle Eastern Flavours) was divine, the soup full flavoured enough to stand up to the Moorish (moreish?) triumvirate of chilli, cumin and coriander, not to mention a good whack of harissa. It was lovely to look at too, its rich orangey red offset with pretty tangles of green shoots, toothsome chunks of spud, spicy sausage and bivalve lurking in its depths. ‘Taste the passion!’ I wrote in my notes. Ahem.

Andy’s Seabream Ceviche, Red Onion & Celery (₤9.50), (‘Classic Ceviche With Yuzu Kosho & A Hint Of Green Chili’) was wonderfully zesty, with tiny slivers of peppery radish enlivening the squeaky clean dice of sweet raw fish. ‘It leaves a lingering freshness,’ he said, which made me wonder for how long freshness is capable of lingering. But enough of such pedantic semantics.

To follow, I went for the Poached Brill & Prawn Ravioli (₤17.50), (‘Cornish Brill Poached In Coconut Broth With Enochi, Shitake, Spring Onion & Chili Salad’). Again, a picture on a plate, this time nodding to Thailand with its subtle, coconut-creamy flavours. It also offered a lovely contrast of textures—silky pasta, delicate fish, lightly crunchy veg, all wallowing in a bath of perfectly seasoned velvety broth. Andy’s Duck Leg “Pot au feu “, Asiatique (₤17.00) (‘Confit De Canard Served In Asian Flavours’) was less successful, in fact the only bum note of the whole meal. While the meat was falling-off-the-bone tender and the sub-Continental flavours exquisite, he reckoned that subsuming it in a deep soupy bowl made it tricky to eat with a knife and fork, while rendering erstwhile crispy skin a bit soggy.

By then we’d had an inelegant sufficiency, but allowed ourselves to be persuaded to share Luxurious and Chocolate Bitter Orange (£6.50). A jolly good decision, as it happened: so rich, grown up and unfeasibly unctuous that I undid my skirt’s top button with nary a soupcon of regret.

The drink

A delicately pale, pale Provencal rose to start, which made us feel as though we were not just across the Channel, but an awful lot further south. After that it gets a little hazy, though I do recall a spritzy white, a red so full-bodied as to be Churchillian (or maybe that should be Napoleonic) and a luscious, honeyed Tokaji.

Bistro Vadouvan was wonderful (with a few hiccups) when it started, and I sincerely hope it has now found its feet and the popularity it so deserves.

The details:

Bistro Vadouvan, 30 Brewhouse Lane, Putney Wharf, Putney, London SW15; www.bistrovadouvan.co.uk; 020 3475 3776

If you would like to stay up to date with our restaurant reviews, subscribe to our weekly e-newsletter.

Restaurants | , ,