Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Le Quecumbar - 1930s France comes to Battersea

It is a testament to Quecumbar's wonderfulness that I am eagerly planning a return trip despite its no-tap-water policy, a decidedly surly owner and a miles-away location. It's an hour long journey, culminating in a longish trek from Clapham Junction (my companion declined to break the walk with an aperitif under the wonky Foster's umbrellas of the Battersea Labour Club). So we are very relived to see a cheery green musical frog swinging from the board above the door. A bright red Quecumbar-branded minibus is parked outside, decorated with musicians' signatures. Inside, we are transported to the glamour of 1930s jazz era. Lights twinkle on green plants which line the stage. The walls are decorated with small pictures and an old clock sets the tone for another era. We start with prosecco (£13, on the drinks specials board) in the lovely back garden (featuring, among other things, a bird house shaped like a hat). Dulcet tones of a guitar lure us back in after a while and we pick food from the sole menu, chalked up on a large blackboard and propped up next to whichever table is ordering. There about eight choices each of mains and starters and I am struck by how used we have become to lengthy descriptions and adjectives. Much as I prickle at Jamie Oliver's "pukka" this and "fantastic" that, I am somewhat a loss when faced with such simple choices as "beef burgers" or "chicken in a creamy sauce". But it fits the menu nicely - it's about good wholesome food, with a French slant and no frills.
My companion's frog's legs are some of the juiciest and least greasy I've ever tasted. My deep fried camembert comes in generous chunks of glorious gooey-ness, nicely balanced by cranberry jam and a crisp salad. For the mains we order a bottle of chilled Burgundy (£16) - this is a place to linger. All the while, a guitarist and a masterful violinist play jazzy tunes. It's beautiful, and the room is quite enough to hear each note. But it's also relaxed, with guests free to indulge in quiet chatter. The boeuf bourgignon (£10)came in a deceptively small pot which ended being too generous for me to finish. The meat was tender (though a bit gristly), and I enjoyed dunking bread into the herby red wine sauce.

My companion opted for the crocodile burgers (£11) - these were juicy patties of white meat (not unlike chicken, to resort to an old cliche, but more flavoursome), served sans bun, but with salad and a few crispy potato wedges. Thoughts of the long trip home and of work the next day dragged us reluctantly homeward about 11pm. Next time we're resolved to try the Tuesday jam session. All in all, it's a lovely place for a romantic night or with a small group of jazz-lovers. Just beware of the £5 cover charge after 8pm and of the £4.50 bottled water (but they are part of the tastelondon scheme, so you can offset the water damage if you are a member). As for the owner, she may have just been having a bad day - some of the other reviews rave about how nice the staff are.

Le Quecumbar, 42-44 Battersea High Street, SW11 3HX; Tel. 020 7787 2227 after 6pm; Rail: Clapham Junction; www.quecumbar.co.uk

1 comment:

EdibleLondon said...

UPDATE Return visits have confirmed that the food is decidedly average - even the snails were a disappointment due to the stingy dose of not very garlicy butter. But it's still a gorgeous venue with great live music -- a rarity in London and thus worth the occasional treck to Battersea. And you never know, Ken's might eventually sort out their no tap water policy.