The Daily Market Menu served Mon—Sat midday—6.30pm
It’s difficult to stand out in an area such as Chiswick, which is now awash with good eateries and lunch spots. The big chains dominate the prime spots on the High Road, but down the side streets are a host of independent places ranging from Chinese takeaways right up to Michelin-starred restaurants.
Charlotte’s Bistro on Turnham Green Terrace is one of the higher end of these tucked-away spots. Much loved for its bistro-style menu and fantastic cocktails, it has now launched a Daily Market Menu offering a more informal, quick dining option. A main course is £12.50, two courses £16.50 and three £19.50, with a glass of wine, bottle of beer or seasonal soft drink included. The menu will change daily according to what the management and chef want to showcase that day. As for the wine, they will serve whatever is currently open, so you may get a glass of the house red or a good Barolo—a bit like a boozy roulette, but you always win.
On a Thursday afternoon it wasn’t exactly busy but the new menu had only just been launched. The crowd were predominantly office workers, Chiswick day-trippers (yes, they exist) and a few ladies who lunch. It was a relaxed set-up and Charlotte’s is a deceptively big restaurant, giving diners plenty of space.
The very attentive Craig sat us in the airy upstairs restaurant and explained how the daily market menu worked and what was on offer for the day. Essentially two or three dishes from each part of the usual menu will be available as the daily fare with which you can make up a one, two or three-course meal. I opted for a gin-cured salmon starter and my companion went for the ironbark pumpkin soup. October, it seems, is the unofficial start of pumpkin-mania. We were also given some of the warm artisan seedy bread with salty butter.
The salmon was a sizeable, fleshy hunk of cured fish and came with bitter lemon slivers and slices of pickled cucumber. It was sweet, sour, crisp and utterly refreshing. The soup came with parmesan and sage beignets and was a thick, velvety offering with very cheesy pastry chunks – clearly a dish that would keep the chill out during cold lunchtimes.
For the main we both chose the pan-fried brill. And the dish truly was brill. A well-cooked chunk of flaky fish served in a mussel chowder with cauliflower and chervil. Brill isn’t the most flavoursome of fish but in a creamy sauce with salty mussels and sweet cauliflower it was a very good plate of food and greater than the sum of its parts. We also had a side of kale, which was probably swimming in a bit too much butter for a ‘superfood’.
As it was lunchtime we didn’t go for a third course, but what was on offer sounded very good; brioche doughnut with salted caramel and an apple compote, or a thyme panna cotta plum jam and crumble – #foodporn, as they say.
It was a fish-heavy meal so we both opted for a glass of Les Contours de Deponcins Viognier and a Grange des Rocs Sauvignon-Viogner. Both were above house wine standard, crisp and light and accompanied the food perfectly. Fizzy and still table water were also on offer and regularly topped up.
The overall concept of a quick two or three-course meal (no-one’s going to just have a main, let’s be realistic) may seem a bit of a stretch, unless it’s a Friday lunch. But from ordering to finish we were done in about 45 minutes, so the reality is not such an impossibility. Considering Charlotte’s has been named the Good Food Guide’s Readers Restaurant of the Year for London, this kind of food at these prices represents a good value, indulgent lunch.