Chabrot Bistrot d’Amis Knightsbridge
9 Knightsbridge Green, London, SW1X 7QLH
020 7225 2238
Tucked away in a hidden bijou alley off Knightsbridge sits Chabrot Bistrot d’Amis, an unpretentious gem of a restaurant that ticks most of the boxes that you could hope for from your fantasy local bistrot. The tablecloth is red and white, the chairs are darkwood and bowbacked, the seating intimate and the menu reads like a greatest hits of bistrot classics. In fact it is only the clientele, the usual international Knightsbridge mix, that breaks the illusion that you aren’t in a prosperous bourgeois little town somewhere indeterminate in Southwest France. There’s a couple of wealthy looking blonde women speaking in Spanish checking out the men in the room; an older chap from somewhere in the Levant sports an unlikely toupee and has a much younger woman as his dining companion, she is nodding far too attentively to be his daughter; and then there is an English couple. The husband is showing off. He shouts his order in an exaggerated French accent as his wife looks away. She has a dead look in her eyes.The waiters, displaying considerable sang-froid, reply in English just to wind him up.
I have turned up at Chabrot with my brother the businessman. We don’t have a reservation and it’s 7.30 on a Thursday evening but they squeeze us in giving us a two hour window which is easily going to be enough time. He is quite a fan of the Bistrot Deluxe concept, particularly enjoying the Galvin brothers’ version on Baker St, and seems pleased to be in somewhere new to him where he can take his wife or clients.
Some wholemeal bread and some butter arrived. Both were fine without being great but provided some ballast for our bottle of Fleurie Vieilles Vignes 2010 (£39 retailing around £15). The wine needed a good thirty minutes to really open up but even then did not really have the velvety floral characteristics of the best examples of this particular Beaujolais cru. However at this point things started to pick up. A waiter bearing a pot of smoked herrings (£7.50) arrived at the table and solemnly laid them out on top of some waxy spuds. I’m a big fan of herring and this was delicious; the smoke did not overwhelm the fish allowing the herring flavour to come through in what was a great version of this simple classic dish.
My brother had ordered the snails in parsley butter (£ 8.50) and he reported that they were succulent and tender.
Lemon sole (£19.50) was perfectly cooked, easy to pull off the bone, tasting of the sea but not overcooked and twice-cooked frites (£3.50) achieved the requisite crispy/fluffiness level to be satisfying.
Choux farci ‘Chabrot’ (Stuffed cabbage with veal, chestnuts, foie gras and cêps at £18.50) was also a hit, a rich and satisfying example of La cuisine bourgeoise.
For desserts I had a ‘Colonel Gascon’ (£6.50), lemon sorbet with lime zest and a shot of Armagnac on top. This was implausibly delicious and I for a moment I harboured a fantasy of giving up my life of unabated hedonism to join the Foreign Legion and find this Colonel Gascon….whilst my brother had a mix of glaces and sorbets (£5.50) that enlivened him enough to make the long (short) journey to the tube. Apart from the classics the menu also offers a selection of Basque charcuterie and some sharing mains plates such as Whole foie gras, roasted with grapes & raisins (£69) or Roasted chicken with foie gras at (£52)
Chabrot is run by a Gallic triumvirate; the chef is Thierry Laborde (from Le Gavroche and L’Oranger), Yann Chevris (Nobu and Nahm) is operations manager and Philippe Messy ( a previous UK Sommelier of the year) takes care of the wine. It is not a budget operation and if the Knightsbridge prices scare you just go elsewhere, but if they don’t and you are in the mood for a slice of South West France, then this is as authentic an operation as you will find this side of La Manche.