Le Vieux Comptoir, Vins Fins & Delices de France.
After a relaxed afternoon chat putting the world to rights, with my closest friend Andrew, we discussed finding somewhere new for dinner. We’ve tried every restaurant close to his flat in Little Venice and several in Marylebone Village, a midway meeting point between both our homes. Most are good but we wanted somewhere new to engage us.
Browsing options on a restaurant booking app brought up all the places we know and I was about to give up scrolling through when a new option caught my eye – Le Vieux Comptoir, Vins Fins & Delices de France. Deciding we’d rather check it out before making a booking we headed to Moxon Street just off Marylebone High Street. The location on the site of a an old pub, next to Paddington Street Gardens, means it’s not a place you will easily chance upon although research informs me it’s been here since 2013. Being a bright summer day, we almost did not go beyond the ground floor wine shop into the cellar restaurant. However by the end of the evening were both very pleased we had ventured down the stairs.
Almost immediately we knew we’d made a good choice. The manager greeted us with relaxed French charm, genuine charm that shines through, apologising that the only available table was not the best he could offer. It seemed perfectly fine to us. Yes, every other table and bar space was filled with joyous people who clearly knew they’ve found a treasure. Even in a cellar setting the noise was fun and friendly, not raucous or reverberating. A table of 10 next to us was celebrating and enjoying a shared feast of cured meats, olives, capers and gherkins with an ingenious wedge shaped Raclette grill which continually melts the exposed side of a half wheel of cheese so you can scrape off the delicious melted cheese and pass it to the nextperson. We will definitely try this experience in the future.
Each person who served gave us the same feeling of real hospitality. They wanted us to be there and to enjoy the special atmosphere. They were also confident that the food would equally represent “Les Delices de France”. Andrew chose Parisienne Salad of Chicory, Blue Cheese, Pears and Walnuts beautifully presented, light and a heavenly blend of flavours. I opted for Terrine de Campagne, two generous thick slices of delight that would make a superb lunch choice alone. This was accompanied by a tall stoneware jar of home preserved gherkins with long wooden tongues to extract them from their vinegar. By its freshness, the warm crusty bread must be made on site.
For main course I was deeply tempted by, and shall enjoy another time, the Hamburger LVC of Confit Duck with Brie. The twinkle in our waitress’ eye, Gallic shrug of the shoulders and sensual expression “The Plat du Jour, Boeuf Bourguignon, it is so good I would ’ave it.” utterly convinced us both! Another generous soup bowl of meltingly tender braised beef with all the hints of bay, garlic, onion, root vegetables and red wine to create an outstanding stew. Simply served with roast potatoes and a sprinkling of parsley, this was the pinnacle of home cooked authentic French food.
Of course the wines had to be equally outstanding. Never before have I been guided through a wine list with such genuine care that the wine would match the food. I was even directed away from a more expensive wine because “This St Emilion is just perfect for the boeuf.” My glass of St Emilion Crand Cru 2012 made me feel richly loved. Andrew is very particular about his white wine but even he was charmed by the meld of dry mineral and refreshing melon excitement of the Chenin Blanc in the Chateau Langlois Samur Blanc.
£111 is an average London price for two courses, one bottle and one glass for two people. In fact Andrew, tried to persuade me not to report on this perfect find!