Le Cafe du Marche is one of London’s best kept secrets.
You pass Smithfield – the biggest wholesale meat market in Europe whose the buildings date to Victorian times although beef, pork, mutton and more has been sold here for over 800 years – and go down a cul-de-sac. At the end there’s a narrow alley which leads to the restaurant. You might spot the unobtrusive sign – if you’re attentive.
But once inside, you are transported both to an environment that Escoffier would have recognised – it’s far more “French” than the similarly named establishment in Paris 6ieme – and one where brokers and bankers meet away from their normal world to plot deals.
More importantly, this restaurant serves great food and wine. The proof is that it will turn 30 in 2016 and has survived countless City booms and busts.
The menu changes around once a month – to reflect seasonal food availability. There are also daily dishes which are announced when you get there.
On my recent visit, I started with the rillette of pork, gherkins and grilled sourdough – served with limitless bread of a quality which most French boulangeries can only dream about. This is not the most difficult of dishes – Cafe du Marche eaters would probably run a mile from “innovation” – but that does not stop it being delicious.
To follow I munched my way through the grilled bavette (known to some as “flank steak”) with roasted shallots and garlic butter – again classic cuisine and scrumptious with my meat served rare enough to satisfy most tastes.
The restaurant has a fixed price meal policy – it’s two courses for £31.95 and three for £36.85. And there is no nonsense about adding extra for vegetables. All meals are served with extremely generous portions of chips – the french fries are fantastic – and copious salad.
If you have two courses, it’s bad form to refuse pudding. There’s a dessert du jour but I had strawberry tart – a generous helping of strawberries (not those flown in from far enough away to lose all taste but the real English thing) on superb pastry.
Wines are exclusively French ranging from £23.50 to about £80 with an excellent selection under £40.
Including half a bottle of wine, coffee and service, expect to spend around £65 per person.
22 Charterhouse Square, Charterhouse Mews Smithfield London EC1M 6DX
020 7608 1609
Nearest station – Farringdon