If there’s one thing London doesn’t lack, it’s restaurants. Everywhere you look there’s another one, from the fine-dining luxury of Mayfair to the spit and sawdust pie shops of the East End, you never have to go far for a meal. This is marvellous in a multicultural, rich-heritage-of-culinary-history sort of way, but it does make it rather hard to sort the wheat from the chaff.
Talk to any Londoner about eating out and I’ll bet they come up with the same response: ‘We want a good, neighbourhood restaurant, where the food is great and you don’t have to book months in advance.’ I’m no exception to this, and as a South-West Londoner, was eager to accept an invitation to eat at Chez Manny, a French brasserie on Battersea High St.
Owned and and run by Manny himself, with new head chef Jean Yves Guiomar in the kitchen, the place has a relaxed and convivial atmosphere, compounded by the welcome you get from Manny the minute you walk in the door. Exuding Gallic bonhomie, he showed us to our seats as if we were old friends. The décor of the restaurant is simple, clean and modern, but with subtle enough lighting that it doesn’t feel stark. The front side is entirely floor to ceiling glass, which we were told opens up completely in the summer, extending the restaurant onto the cobbled stones of the High St. Very continental.
The menu is one you would expect in a back-street brasserie in Paris. French classics such as snails and duck confit sit with more seasonal specials like wild garlic soup, and everything sounds uncomplicated, and above all, appetising. I kicked off with a homemade terrine, with my friend Will opting for the more robust tartiflette. (I’ll confess I made him order this. Being an ex-chalet girl I’m a massive tartiflette snob and I wanted to see how it would fare…) It fared very well indeed, creamy and cheesy with just the right amount of seasoning. My terrine was also delicious, flecked with pistachio and finer cut than many, which made it all the easier to pile onto some of the best bread I’ve had in ages.
For our main courses I opted for sole meuniere, while, in a somewhat foolhardy error of judgement, Will went for cassoulet, a gut-bustingly filling mixture of Toulouse sausage, confit duck and pork, slow-cooked with haricot beans and topped with toasted breadcrumbs. A traditional French peasant dish, this example was near faultless, although following a tartiflette the sheer quantity (not to mention variety of meat) caused something of a problem, and Will was forced to concede defeat half-way in.
My sole was wonderful, with the right balance between butter and lemon and the fish just flaking and not flabby or overcooked. It was accompanied by glazed carrots and sautéed potatoes, which I found a little heavy – I would have preferred a salad – but their presentation is definitely more authentic. An iced raspberry parfait for pudding was the perfect palate cleanser after the buttery sole, and despite the groans of over-indulgence, Will still managed to polish off an exemplary crème brulee without too much trouble.
Our meal was washed down with an excellent Languedoc white, with a complexity of flavour that belied the very reasonable price tag. In fact, the wine list in general was great, and Manny is definitely the only Frenchman I’ve met to recommend a new world wine to me!
We came away full, sleepy and definitely a bit heavier, but above all content, and slightly smug in the knowledge that we had indeed found a neighbourhood gem. I will be returning to Chez Manny in the very near future.
Chez Manny , 145-149 Battersea High St, SW11 3JS
020 7223 4040
Readers will receive a 20% discount on their bill if they quote ‘woman&home’ when booking between Sunday to Thursday.