Bandol London restaurant is what lovers of Provence have been waiting for – a restaurant which showcases the food of that region, under-represented in UK restaurants, and many of the lovely wines for which the South of France is regaining a reputation. It would be nice if it also looked the part, but despite the token olive tree, this casual restaurant off the Fulham Road is a little hard-edged with its copper bar and trimmings, though the three semi-circular booths are comfy, while private parties have the slightly surreal option of a pair of mesh-walled cages.
The important thing is that superb wines of the region including the red and rose of Domaine Tempier, superlative pale pinks from Domaines Ott and both white and red from the highly-rated organic Domaine de Terrebrune are all on the list. The Terrebrune white and the Tempier red are even available by the glass – at a pretty price, to be sure, but a fabulous treat for wine-lovers.
Everything you would expect is on the menu, though prepared with varying degrees of authenticity. It’s probably impossible to get rascasse and other essential varieties for bouillabaisse in the UK, but the red mullet, gurnard, mussels and giant prawn did well enough, although instead of being served in a tureen, the dish came in a shallow bowl with just a measly spoonful or two of fragrant bisquey broth. We asked for more, and got a copper saucepanful of the right stuff – what a shame, though, that the chef du jour could not produce a proper rouille.
Starters are an odd bunch – perfect tapenade, but anchoiade which again tasted inauthentic, happily wiped out by a wonderful petite friture of whitebait, calamari and prawns with a pale green aioli. Burrata with heirloom tomatoes might have been our second choice, but didn’t seem to belong with this Provencal fare(true also of the black ink risotto which is a Venetian speciality).
The high point of the mains was a generous plate of perfectly-cooked rack of lamb, separated into chops and served on a bed of oniony sauce soubise. It was like going to heaven when paired with a glass of the Tempier which cost almost as much.
Desserts included a confection not previously seen outside St. Tropez – the “tarte Tropezienne” which is not a tart at all but a kind of cream-filled bun beloved of Brigitte Bardot, apparently. Lovely with a glass of sauternes, and left us with a sense of summers past as we turned out into the wintry streeets of SW10 feeling full of remembered sunshine.