The problem with reviewing restaurants is that it’s easy to get a skewed impression of the place by ordering the wrong stuff. This is a risk that’s all but eliminated at Babette, a new casual restaurant in an old Nunhead pub, where the menu is so brief that for groups of four or more the choice is simple: ‘Everything, please’.
What you’ll get in return depends on when you visit, as the two sharing boards (one meaty, one not) and the short selection of shareable plates, sides and desserts, all chalked up on a pair of blackboards, change as and when stuff runs out. French influence (Babette is named after its cheerful, welcoming Gallic owner) is prominent, but the overall remit is more ethnically diverse than a university prospectus – expect everything from mushroom arancini and goat’s cheese couscous to sausage rolls and Welsh rarebit.
It’s a potentially frustrating set-up should you happen to fall for a particular dish, but the spectrum I sampled revealed no glaring weaknesses in the kitchen. Particularly worthy of note were the slabs of deep-fried mac ’n’ cheese – crisp and crunchy on the outside, soft and gooey within – the melty-tender braised pig’s cheek and the home-made jerky; rich, beefy with bang-on chewiness – worlds away from the over-desiccated bullshit found behind bars across the city. The small beer list showcases the best of the Bermondsey Beer Mile, while cocktails are short, punchy and photogenic as fuck.
Basically, then, Babette is everything a neighbourhood restaurant ought to be: warm, welcoming, casual (we’re talking order-at-the-bar chilled-out, here) and with a menu that changes often enough to encourage repeat visits. Très bien, Madame Babette, très bien.