Le Cafe Du Jardin
28 Wellington Street,
London WC2E 7BD
Tel: 020 7836 8769
Food type: French Bistro
Food rating: 2/10
Nearest tube: Covent Garden/ Temple
Website: Le Cafe Du Jardin
Sorry for the late update – my work has been piling up high and the natural thing for me to do is to enjoy a weekend away at Nottingham. This was a short trip up to the mid-lands for the badminton games although I did get the opportunity to do a bit of sight seeing and of course some eating. I will be sure to post some future reviews of the places I dined at while up there. For this entry I will review Le Cafe du Jardin where I celebrated my birthday proper with my friends, most of whom were badminton buddies.
Cafe Du Jardin is located on Wellington Street in Convent Garden. It is within comfortable reach of most theatres around the area. The restaurant is certainly well aware of its location offering value for money pre-theatre menus aimed at the theatre going crowd, taking great care in ensuring their customers do not miss the show. The dining room is divided into two levels with the ground floor sporting (pictured) sporting a conservatory look and a more spacious basement where diners can be entertained by live piano music. The decor as you would expect from a French cafe-type restaurant is traditional with white table cloths and sofa-chairs.
For the purpose of this party, I took advantage of the Toptable promotion which offered 3 courses and a Kir Royal for £25. Normally I am pretty wary with these special promotion offers as the restaurant reel customers in with a cheap menu with very limited options. This of course leaves the customer with little choice but to order from the a la carte menu or opt for something that they would not enjoy. Fortunately, the toptable promotional menu offers a wide array of options for each course.
Bread was a choice of traditional baguette, wholemeal and raisin. This was not warmed up prior to serving to us. The bread was overall acceptable around the 2/10 level being rather chewy and had none of the lovely crunchy crust you would find in good bread.
My starter was a Tempura of Frogs Legs with Rocket Mayonnaise. Leaving the name issues to one side, this was your basic deep-fried frog legs you would expect to find in most french bistros. The dish suffered from overcomplicated presentation. In all fairness, I would have been happy to have a nice pile of frogs legs with a dipping bowl of the mayonnaise and a side salad of the rocket. To be honest, I don’t think the rocket even belongs on the plate – its bitterness only served to distract from the frogs legs which were well cooked. (3/10)
J’s starter of Sage Gnocchi with Mascarpone and Parmesan was definitely on a must do better list. I’m sure the pictures above will bring back vivid memories of sloppy school dinners (assuming you were ‘lucky’ enough to be served gnocchi that is). Three gigantic pillows which bore more of a resemblance to potato dumplings than the light fluffy gnocchi sat in a pool of cream, cheese and tomato sauce. The gnocchi (if you want to refer to it as thus) was heavy and stodgy, a far cry from what a good gnocchi could and should taste like. (1/10)
My other guests (bear in mind there were quite a few of us) enjoyed the above starters which I did not get to try. I have to say the Twice baked souffle looked pretty interesting.
For mains I went for the roasted pork belly which proved to be a major disappointment. Pork belly is one of the cheaper cuts of meat so for them to give me four very thin slices was hardly generous to say the very least. Slow roasting pork belly should result in meat so tender it is literally falling off the bone which was not the case here. The meat was tough and dry, topped by a layer of rubbery skin. Unfortunately there was no crackling here. When it comes to pork rind it has either got to be crisp (crackling) or soft and gelatinous (braised pork). The pork sat atop some decent savoy cabbage and toasted cashew nuts. The lack of any form of carbs was rather disappointing as it is a cheeky way to get us to purchase a side order. Of course I didn’t and was left hungry… (again, more emphasis on the 4 thin strips of pork). (1/10)
J’s mains of guinea fowl faired slightly better – a breast of guinea fowl was pan fried and roasted served with lardons, mushrooms and a gruyere croquette. This was finished off with a rather watery red wine reduction and a helping of bitter watercress. (2/10)
Rump of Lamb with Artichoke Mashed Potatoes and a Mint Jus
As with the starters, these are the mains that my guest enjoyed which I did not get to try.
As I was still hungry after my (severely lacking) mains, I decided to opt for the cheese. Neal’s Yard Diary is one of the better affineurs in London so it was disappointing to have only 3 basic cheeses accompanied by oatmeal biscuits and fig chutney. Cheddar was fine as was the Stilton but the goats cheese was chalky. (4/10)
J had a White chocolate torte which was pleasant enough, the ground almonds and dessicated coconut adding a nuttiness to complement the chocolate. (4/10)
Of note of the white and dark chocolate mousse which J commented to remind her of a bowl of Coco Rocks…
Overall, dinner at Le Cafe du Jardin was pleasant enough. Service was capable and at no point did they try to rush us. The cooking here tries to be innovative without ever being spectacular. Still, Le Cafe Du Jardin is one of the better eateries around theatre-land so it would be worth a visit should you wish to grab a bite before heading off for your show.