Mill Lane Bistro, West Hampstead
If there is anything nicer than al fresco lunch in the sun, then I don't know what. Sitting at a pavement table and enjoying the first rosé of the year, I was a pig in the proverbial at Mill Lane Bistro, West Hampstead this week. And when we saw that there was a very generous two courses for £11.95 our enjoyment increased ten fold (it's rather a lean month!)
The menu is classic French bistro fayre - good - and fortunately there were escargots available on the bargainous lunch deal, so snail superfan Rich was a very happy man. They were delicious, as of course most things doused in hot garlicky butter are:
I opted for the equally Gallic frog's legs, which had been given the full French treatment and were served in lashings of calvados cream, which I only just about managed not to sup straight from the bowl. For anyone who hasn't had frog's legs, the sheer 'frogginess' of their appearance may look a little offputting but - and I know everyone says this about any kind of unusual meat - they taste very much like chicken. There is nothing amphibious about the flavour, and you can quite easily believe you are just munching on a particularly scrawny yet succulent chicken wing. See?
It was a really delicious dish and the quality was tres impressive, regardless of the rock bottom price. Unsurprising I suppose, as head honcho Cyril (a nice Frenchman) has big names like Scott's, Tom Aikens etc. all over his CV and clearly knows what he is doing. Our mains of Steak Frites (flank, medium rare, Rich's choice) and Moules Mariniere (mine, in a futile attempt to eat lightly as I also had a dinner reservation) were similarly good.
The beef had obviously been carefully sourced, was full of flavour and arrived just a touch over medium rare perhaps. Still really good.
My mussels were a great choice too with the familiar combination of white wine, garlic and plenty of fresh parsley and rosemary. Lovely and summery:
I narrowly resisted the baguette and frites and was comfortably full enough to be able to wave away the proffered dessert menu. Rich was not so iron-willed and succumbed to a cheese board for an extra £2 on top of the £11.95 two course price, which was crazily cheap for the quality of cheese that arrived along with still more baguette and a tangy, fruity but unidentified pot of something nice.
The website claims Cyril's concept is 'To bring Michelin star food to a relaxed bistro style served at an affordable price' and I'd say he's pretty much there.
The damage came in at just over £60, which frankly shows we must cut down on our booze bill. But not yet... not as it's just coming into rosé season.