85b Fleet Rd
Time Out rating:
Time Out says
Thu Oct 14 2010
La Cocotte is the sort of French neighbourhood restaurant once commonplace in London, but now rarer than a Les Bleus goal celebration.
The restaurant is spread over two floors: the ground floor offers quaint brasserie-style dining with red checked tablecloths, candles and French dictionaries casually scattered around. Upstairs, the more subdued dining room is dominated by white, and attracts mostly couples looking for a quiet date.
We decided to eat downstairs and enjoy the rustic charm. To the soundtrack of ‘Amélie’, we chose from the short menu. Onion soup, bouillabaisse, steak frites – think of a French classic, and it’s probably on there.
Our starter of terrine de campagne was excellent. Served on a wooden board, the dense slice of pork pâté came with toasted sourdough bread and a small bowl of pickles, the sourness of which contrasted with the hearty terrine. Not so convincing was the tarte Provençale: a limp pastry topped with ratatouille-style vegetables in an eggy flan. It tasted good but the texture just wasn’t right.
Mains are a tribute to the restaurant’s name – most dishes are served in a cocotte (heavy pot) from Le Creuset. Coq au vin is one such classic, the moist meat of the chicken leg swimming in a deeply flavoured red wine sauce, dotted with thick chunks of mushrooms, a generous amount of smoky bacon and three potatoes.
The menu described the sea bass as served in a beurre blanc sauce, but the fish came with a heavier béchamel instead of the lighter, melted butter sauce. Both mains were on the salty side, which, according to French folklore, hints that the chef is in love.
Portions weren’t huge, leaving us with enough space to sample the cheese board. Disappointingly the selection comprised mediocre versions of the usual suspects: brie, bleu d’Auvergne, goats cheese, tomme de Savoie. But the heavenly crème brulée got us all excited: a creamy vanilla flan whose treacherously light texture made it easy to forget you’re scoffing spoonfuls of double cream.
Just like the food menu, the wine list is brief and chauvinistically French, clearly annotated and stylistically diverse from southern French vins de pays to special occasion wines. More choice by the glass rather than just two house wines (white or red) would have been better.
Service was on the slow side, but made up for it with friendliness and care; a neighbouring diner complained about the fish tasting too fishy, and was immediately offered another dish without any fuss.
This bistro may offer all the French clichés – but it does so in a charming way.
La Cocotte 85b Fleet Rd
020 7433 3317
- Opening hours:
Open 6-11pm Tue; noon-3pm, 6-11pm Wed-Sat; noon-3pm Sun
Tube: Belsize Park tube, Hampstead Heath rail or bus 24, 168
Meal for two with wine and service: around £90
- 85b Fleet Rd
- 020 7433 3317
- 85b Fleet Rd
- La Cocotte