The good news is, in the 2 years during which I have been exploring other pastures, there has been a crop of exciting new openings, and none I can rave more about than The French House. The original cafe/brunch/all day eatery opened in West Dulwich and has now found space for a second wave on Westow triangle.
A living homage to Ye-Ye music and all things kitsch-Français from the 60s, the interior of The French House is bright, colourful and plastered with images from Salut Les Copains magazine, a 60s-70s equivalent of Top of the Pops in print: all mini skirts, fluo pink and Serge Gainsbourg smoking with les girls.
But more importantly – this is one of those great local places that ticks the holy triumvate of foodie excellence: good service, good value and good food. It is Sunday at 2pm and the place is heaving.
We are greeted by a big smile from both our lovely waitress a jovial and smiling girl from Rome who clearly loves the area and believes in the great food being served. She sits us down, makes recommendations, fusses over us and regails anecdotes with a breezy charm.
The menu is simple, as French as you’d want it with the delightful bonus of a selection of Tarte Flambées which as a girl who grew up in Alsace, used to be my bread and butter and a dish I am hypoer critical about. Tarte Flambee is – in its most simplistic description – an ultra-thin, rectangular pizza base topped traditionally with creme fraiche, bacon lardons and sweet onions found all over Alsace in France. Here they are cooked in the thin and cripsy way with both traditional and modern toppings, a great cheap meal with packs of flavour.
We skip these in favour of the special – Duck confit with dauphinoise potatoes and green beans. There is no fuss in the service or presentation, just excellent quality crispy skinned, juicily fatty and flavoursome duck, meltingly buttery potatoes and garlicky green beans – delicious, pleasing, simple and elegant.
Having arrived a bit early for our table, we were appropriately warned that the confit took a bit longer to cook, in case we minded the extra minutes waiting. We minded not, and enjoyed our wine, but as a compensation our waitress offered to put together a small plate of charcuterie for us to nibble on in the waiting time. What came out was evidence of care and a love of food, a groaning board with several cheeses, cured meats such as finnocchiona and parma ham, pickles chutneys, sliced fruits and thick fresh bread. The whole thing, which could have passed as a pub meal, charged at a modest £9.40.
And it is that kind of place – not trying hard, not needing a bloody Time Out review. Just dishing up good quality food made with love, in a charming setting, with a pumping cheesy soundtrack that befits its theme, and delightful staff who have a the knack of banter and a love of service. Magic ingredients so rarely found altogether under the one roof. They also have a small shop selling French and Alsacian goodies! I shall most definitely be returning.