Wednesday, 10 February 2010
The Peanut Gallery and I spent last weekend eating and guffawing our way around Paris, in our own special tres chic style. TPG even grew a fine, curly 'tache for the occasion. Special Greedy Diva highlights are coming soon. However, suffice to say, many gallons of butter, animal fat and lashings of cream later, I'm not sure my body can cope with more French fare. I can still feel the eclairs au chocolat pulsing through my veins.
Fortunately, the menu at La Petite Maison holds promise of fresh, Nicoise cuisine - a bounty of seafood and grilled meats, vegetables, salads and Ligurian oils. A taste of the Mediterranean diet should be just what the doctor ordered.
Set on Brooks Mews in a quiet Mayfair cul-de-sac, La Petite Maison is a bright, buzzy, quintessential French brasserie based on a restaurant of the same name (and holding high regard) in Nice. Classic and classy, it's easy to see how it won Tatler's Best Room Award in 2008. It was brought to London by one of the owners of Roka and Zuma, but despite its position in the heart of the well heeled and sometimes stuffy streets of Mayfair, it's surprisingly relaxed and fun. Plates are meant to be shared (although you can just as easily stick to your own if you're not a sharer - perfectly understandable) which enhances the informality, despite the elegance of the food.
For me, it's love at first sight. The infatuation only increases as the food arrives. Friends Kerry, Ben, Sarah and Tim join The Peanut Gallery and I as we devour plate after plate of truly delightful fare.
As we fawn over the menu, thick slices of crusty bread are continually replenished on the table before us. A large bowl of grassy, green hued Ligurian olive oil takes centre stage on the table along with lemons and tomatoes to be sliced and rubbed into the bread in rustic tradition.
We share delicate starters of carpaccio of scallop and a superb dish of thinly sliced octopus in lemon oil which was truly a taste sensation. We're already working ourselves up into quite a flutter. We pair up these lighter choices with some deep fried courgette flowers, with sage, anchovy and onions, and pots of deep fried baby squid which were both perfectly adequate, although proferring slightly less to get het up about.
We also decide to share our mains - essentially, of course, out of a spirit of curiousity, gluttony and hedging our bets than any mightier principle of generosity. I choose the turbot with artichokes, chorizo, white wine and olive oil. It's delectable. It's been cooked in stock with vegetables, and is meaty, succulent and satisfying.
Tim and TPG each choose the grilled rib eye steak which turns out to be a fantastic piece of Scottish beef, grilled perfectly medium rare and cut into thick, mouthwatering strips to share.
The grilled veal chop is gorgeously creamy, while the grilled lamb chops with smoked aubergine are tender and pink. With all this, we share sides of green beans and crisp fries.
Usually, there's at least one dud in a field of so many. But it was impossible to pick a winner.
There's a clear leader on the dessert front as far as I'm concerned - and thankfully, it's mine. The warm chocolate mousse with malt ice-cream is so good I want to clear the room, find the vessel its stored in, and take a head first dive. Even TPG who has an annoyingly inexplicable aversion to chocolate mousse agrees it rocks.
His thin apple tart with vanilla ice cream looks a little on the light side, although he wolfed it down before I had the chance to try. The pear clafoutis was eggy and scrumptious (according to the eggy dessert lovers among us - such things are not my first choice, but it was lovely even to me).
I'm mentally preparing for a revisit already, even if only to try what must surely be a heavenly black leg whole chicken with foie gras (the aforesaid chook has been much hyped by reviewers in the past, which may or may not be a good sign). La Petite Maison is not cheap - expect Mayfair prices (at around £60 per head for us plus drinks). But every dish was fantastic, as was our wine from the largely French wine list. This is high class, rustic, wholesome fare - set in a chic, flirtateously French ambience. Somewhere for a romantic tete a tete, or a wine guzzling extravaganza with like minded friends, it's got it all. (Except the Nice foreshore.)
La Petite Maison, 53-54 Brook's Mews, Mayfair, W1K 4EG London
Ph: 020 7495 4774