20 April 2016

Bistrotheque, Bethnal Green

Bistrotheque's a perennial favourite in our house. Sarah and Russell used to go when they were living in a tiny flat next door, splashing their graduate wages on fine food. Ashley always takes his parents there whenever they visit, and I have a thing for steak tartare.

So it seemed only fair to take P there as a further introduction to the culinary delights of Bethnal Green. We stopped off at Sager + Wilde Restaurant for drinks beforehand and then, three whisky cocktails down, tottered up the road to Wadeson Street. Bistrotheque is tucked away down a small road in a non-descript warehouse that you'll probably walk past the first time you go. Enter the unmarked door and turn straight up the concrete stairs, push through the industrial double doors and bask in the chaotic calm that is the all white and windows restaurant.

Bistrotheque feels how I imagine a Brooklyn loft restaurant to feel. It's a sizeable open space but it feels intimate as tables are close together, the atmosphere buzzy. Sit up at the square bar while waiting for your table, martini made with Hackney gin or vodka in hand. Then pass by the open kitchen where the industrious chefs plate up dish after dish and the friendliest, smiliest waiters (also in whites) bustle back and forth with a practised calm.

The food's 'Modern European' which I feel can cover a multitude of sins but here, there are few. The still-warm bread and butter while you're mulling over the wine menu (Old and New World, naturally) is a good start. As were the large grilled prawns in garlic butter with bone marrow which I managed to devour in double quick time - the sweet meat of the shellfish rounded up by the richness of the marrow. Plenty of sauce for dipping, too. P had the crab - a glorious combination of brown and white meat with ample citrusy bite.

For mains, my ever-predictable order of steak tartare was no surprise. Well-prepared with the fresh zing of the mustard, the salt of the capers and no need for the Tabasco on the table, it was served classic with frites. P didn't order so well this time, choosing the burrata, truffle and shallot tart which sounded promising but only delivered on the onion and nothing else. Thank goodness for generous girlfriends sharing.

Then came cheese - Riseley, Turnworth and Cashel Blue served with quince jelly oatcakes (discarded) and smothered onto more bread from the kitchen. As a massive cheese fiend, these were all delicious (predictably) and P was impressed (big thumbs up from the resident Frenchie).

We finished the night with an espresso martini for me and the cognac for P before heading for nightcaps at Peg + Patriot. Another night at Bistrotheque well spent. Four and a half out of five.

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