I have been neglecting Croydon a little bit recently, in fact I haven’t really been eating here at all. Partly because it is a hole, partly because no one I like lives here, but mainly because I have been to all the good places to eat. There’s only three of them, it isn’t difficult.
Le Cassoulet is in South Croydon next to a sex shop and opposite a bookies, Boulevard across the road is arguably the worst restaurant in the world never to have appeared on Kitchen Nightmares. Despite all of the pictures of Big Sweary in the window I doubt very much he endorses it. The area appears useful if you like being hassled for change, eating cold kebab, and catching busses to Wallington. There used to be the total shitpile of the Swan and Sugarloaf hotel on the corner but that has shut down, a revamped bakery has opened and the Spar has become a NISA. South Croydon is becoming positively middle-class. I think it it’s just trying to look grimey so the London crowd don’t invade and make CR2 all expensive, and less stabby.
Le Cassoulet has been chilling out here for a few years. All French and brown and classy and good. It’s a Malcolm John thing, very much in the mould of Le Vacherin in Chiswick and a lot better than The Fish and Grill down the road by ‘spoons. The set menu is £30, and they normally run an early deal plate for the cheapskates at about a tenner. I went with the former blonde and we had one of each, sharing the starter and the desert from the set menu.
The decor is about as upmarket as you can get in this town, all tableclothy and polished forks. Bread is served warm with a choice of salted or anchovy butter which is nice, if you like that kind of thing, which I do. I opened with marinated octopus, crab vinaigrette, fennel & capers which was both elegant and edible, which is excellent. Thankfully the octopus was the ultimate professional and was dense in flavour and texture. The thinly shaved fennel was crisp and added a freshness that balanced those salty little capers. It was served on a glass rectangle plate which I would normally hate, but all cold and bubbly it carried the octopod with real poise. The only real complaint is aimed at a rogue bite of coriander seed that was a bit off-putting, too bitter and too bolshy.
There was a rogue agent in the maincourse too, a toenail shaped bone. Not the ideal discovery in the first bite of Pig Trotter. The rest was keratin free, just gelatinous pig ankle and a rich chicken mousse. The waitress gawped when I ordered it and giggled that it was a huge portion. I ate it all, it wasn’t that huge, I feel sorry for her and her boyfriend. The pommes mousseline that were served alongside were smooth and unctuous, nice mashing hombre! It was an outstanding dish, very much in the mould of the the old Pigs Trotter Pierre Kauffman that the enfant terrible made famous back in the day (watch the video here if you want a drool).
The former blonde had Le Steak & Frites. It was, as they say in France, superbe. Look at the picture, it tasted as pink and beefy as it looks. Not bad for ten bob, sir.
The rest of the menu is ridiculously enticing. I avoided all the heavier gasconnic wonders like the house Cassoulet, ham and snail pie etc. I am sure they’d be stellar. Because by all accounts the man (peut-etre un femme) in the kitchen knows his merde.
I probably haven’t been gushing enough, I think Le Cassoulet is really rather good and really rather well priced for the quality on offer. I have visited a number of times and have never been let down by food or service. The only restaurant in this league in Croydon is Alberts Table, but that has less atmosphere than a dentists waiting room despite the food being pleasant. So, in a nutshell, go to Le Cassoulet, even if you are Irish and hate Thierry Henry, at £30 it’s a steal.
The nitty gritty:
Distance from Croydon: It’s there – in Croydon (the south bit), at last!
Expect to pay £30 a head and then add on as much plonk and haw-he-haw as you care to drink, the wine list is as long as it is French.