Le Bouchon Bordelais in Clapham boasts a great location, comes equipped with young, athletic, tanned, study-abroad-type waiters in crisp aprons, the requisit 10 irritating Parisians sat at the table at the back and the most ridiculously over-priced bar-snack menu this side of the Thames.Yes, they show all the rugby you could possibly hope for. Yes, Ricard afficionados and expat Frenchies will lap it up and yes, it’s probably the highest concentration of good-looking people you can get in Clapham, but this does not justify £9.50 for a plate of cheese consisting effectively of 5 shavings the size of a 1/4 Babybel and a single fig, quartered to give the illusion of abundance.Similarly a plateau de charcuterie at a cool £10.50 – and by cool I mean the rillettes were rock solid and compacted together in a frozen lardy lump, also wasn’t the best showcase of a country whose every village produces at least one variety of heavenly cured pig/goose/duck/animal poached in butter and fat until it becomes an unctuous patè from Paradise.Maybe it was the fact yesterday’s Clermont-Perpignan top 14 final was particularly boring. More than likely my spritely mood was scuppered by the constant drunken bellowing of one lone, hyper-active Clermont fan with severe ADHD and a 1000 decibel voice who not only felt it necessary to pound his own table with his feet/arms/head every time anyone with a yellow rugby shirt appeared on screen, but also everyone else’s, resulting in shattered glass, sprays of beer and spittle and a slightly terrified looking Perpignan fan huddling under a wall-hanging hoping not to be found.Indeed, it is hard to enjoy good-looking staff, sub-standard charcuterie and deep rugby analysis amongst friends when a gurning idiot is having a brain aneurism/epileptic fit brought on by extreme Clermont fanaticism right behind you.Did I mention the £8.50 Moules (we’re talking a starter portion here, and no, this isn’t Chez Gérard)? Did I mention the Croque Monsieur at £6.50? I know the French claim that their version of a cheese toastie is some sort of gourmet culinary feat of immense achievement, but let’s be honest: bread, ham and bechamel shoved in a toastie-maker should only cost £6.50 at the Savoy if it’s served on a silver platter or drizzled with truffle oil.
AND YET! I shall no doubt return. Since they do have very good-looking waiters. And show rugby. And it’s French. And I’m a sucker. And even sub-standard charcuterie can make me smile. As long as Clermont aren’t playing.
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