If you’re looking for crisp white tablecloths, stalker-like service and Chateau Lafite, look away now, book a cab to Pètrus and be prepared for an evening of smears, reductions and waiters who appear to have rods up their arses. If, however, you are looking for a melt-in-the-mouth, buttery, juicy, dribble-down-your-chin, fat Angus bavette, cooked to bloody perfection at a non-heart-attack inducing price, let Jérôme, the suitably unimpressed patron of Chais Nous, usher you in to his wee French haven tout-de-suite.
The great thing about this place is, a lot of English people think its “not French enough” precisely because it DOESN’T contain those horrendously twee bits of crap that most London French-style “bistrots” contain. In the same way as Irish pubs abroad all look suspiciously similar, and nothing like the spit and sawdust hovel you went to in deepest Limerick, so do most “cafè français” in London look like they came in an ikea box with the requisite “Pastis” posters and wicker chairs.
Chais Nous is so unadorned and unfussy and lacking in any kind of effort at selling itself as a French bar that it actually feels exactly like sitting in a street corner bar in a not very thrilling quartier of a small French town.
The telly will inevitably be showing some third division football game between two teams from places you’ve never heard of and in the corner, scarf-bedecked fans will be nodding and mumbling into their glasses of Ricard as another group of students behind you, probably from the Lycée Français round the corner, moan about how terrible everything in London is and discuss at length the best way to cook endives. How can you not love this!?!?!
There’s a menu du jour and a plat du jour and if you don’t like it you can stuff it. There’s things like gizzard salad, “salade de gésiers”, escargots swimming in garlic butter and tête de veau. Fred and I opted for the Bavette d’angus, and, joy of joys, when I asked for it “really saignant” they offered it to me “bleu” and I thanked the gods someone in this green and verdant land understands that cow should be served still mooing when it comes to the table and not fried to a crisp or blackened into a charcoal brick.
Sunny had a rather divine looking Filet Mignon de Porc in a mustard sauce that I’d have salivated over had I not drunk too much plonk and guzzled my steak like a starved beast.
So, instead of spending squillions at Le Gavroche (yeah, ok, I know there’s no contest…) go and fill the modest coffers of the South Ken francophone community, catch up on all the latest gossip of the Luzenac FC, and get your nashers around a big plate of snails. Go on, you know you want to.
21 Bute Street London SW7 3EY
Tel: 0207 589 7311