I have a big belly. I’m stocky and rotund like one of those Babushka Dolls, though I do try not to look quite so much like a Russian peasant. I’ve thrown that nasty tassley thing away for instance. But weirdly, I have quite a small appetite. Yes, of course there’s the second ‘dessert tummy’, which brazenly steps up when I’m ‘So chock-a-block I couldn’t eat another thing!’. ‘Salted caramel truffle you say? Aw, alright then, maybe just one.’ But in general I don’t eat huge amounts of food.
As a consequence, my meal at Brasserie Chavot was supremely disappointing. Well in fact I was supremely disappointing. I did ok with the heirloom tomato salad, shovelled in an elegant amount of fresh pea, broadbean and octopus, tried my best with the remarkably fragrant boullibasse and nibbled on a sliver of duck from a sublimely sticky cassoulet. But really, I did this man’s food a disservice. I was not the glutton his food deserves.
I’d been invited along to a dinner with a few other bloggers and food writers and fortunately there was a good balance of big eaters and little eaters. We ate ‘en famille’, so there was no awkward clearing of still half-filled plates, no polite inquiring if ‘everything was ok madam?’ Still, sadly, I’m unable to tell you the honest truth about the mergez sausage, the smokey lamb cutlets or the sea bream with raita.
I can say, hand on heart that the soft-shelled crab with saffron aioli was one of the best things I’ve eaten this year. And in total truthfulness, the boullibasse is on my short list for last suppers, with a complexity that still has me trying to mentally tease it apart so I can recreate the recipe. It was one sassy dish. Everything I ate was fresh and bouncy and full of flavour, qualifying Brasserie Chavot for entry into my *LBB (*little black book. Old fashioned, I know.)
Mr Brasserie Chavot – Eric Chavot – is Michelin-starred and cheeky. Not two aspects of a chef that automatically go hand in hand, but in Eric they sit harmoniously. He woos the younger, prettier lassies with flourishes and bows and pecking of hands, and dazzles the crowd with silly Frenchy banter. One does wonder if he’s quite this ‘French’ out of the public eye. But it’s very charming, very seductive.
The service, lead by Pauline Dubord, was lovely. Warm, friendly, but not sycophantic or cloying. Sommelier Andreas Rosendal also did a great job matching the gorgeous fare with some unexpectedly successful choices. My only ‘meh’ moment was dessert. But this is mere pickiness and coloured by the fact that every morsel we’d eaten up until then was thrilling.
I was a guest on this occasion, but having had a squiz at the prices I’m plotting to go again under my own steam. It’s very reasonable for food so authentically satisfying and an overall experience that feels generous, gracious and oh so Frenchy chic.