There are three laws of real estate apparently, location, location & location. If this is truly the case then L’Auberge is probably guilty of breaking all of them. The restaurant is situated in what is a bit of a no-man’s land, where the Upper Richmond Road meets West Hill in an area that can’t be described as being either Putney or Wandsworth, more some sort of undefined border zone. From the outside L’Auberge seems to be ideally suited to the area, boasting a frontage that probably first saw the light of day whilst Mrs. T was in a number 10, and a menu that in design at least, took me back to my school days. Inside the homage to decades past continued with an interior that could have come straight from the set of any 1980’s sitcom, it also extended though to a very warm welcome from the owner, something that is all too rare these days.
Truth be told both myself and the delightful dining companion (DDC) had been intrigued by this place for a while as L’Auberge generally gets good reviews, but whilst situated next to the beaten track isn’t quite on it. The dining room itself is quite small, when we arrived whilst not empty there were only a couple of other tables taken. We were greeted warmly and presented with an aperitif menu, another charming blast from the past and these quickly in hand looked to order our food.
Both myself and the DDC had brought robust appetites with us and quickly decided that we were up for a treat. In true French style there are two separate menus, a set menu and an a la carte. We opted for the a la carte, but it has to be said that the set menu at £14.50 for two courses and £18 for three looked to offer good value. For starter and main I choose the queen scallops followed by the confit of duck with sautéed potatoes cooked in duck fat and garlic. The DDC opted for the camembert and the pork cheeks. The owner was very helpful on the wine, steering the DDC towards a bottle that was perhaps more in line with what she wanted than she realized herself.
Well my food was excellent, the scallops were cooked just right, which is a bit of a challenge with scallops, these also retained something of the taste of the sea. The plate however didn’t retain much of the sauce once the bread came out. The owner had claimed that the best bit of the duck confit were the potatoes. Now I wouldn’t want to disagree with her too much, but I thought the confit itself was extremely tasty, the potatoes though were small slices of potatoey heaven which the DDC helped herself to liberally.
For her part the DDC stated that the camembert, was apparently delightfully gooey. This was then followed by the pigs cheeks, these had a delightfully gamey flavour. This is a cut which is rightly coming back into fashion, and here it was prepared and presented well.
Having heard from his co-owner (and wife) the chef’s speciality was not on the main dishes but the desserts, it felt rude then not to put him to the test. The DDC had a light tart which was the house speciality, this looked to present quite a mission when it appeared, but it proved to be so light that it wasn’t a struggle to finish it (and another pudding) off between us.
It was getting late, nearly 10pm and we were at this point the only 2 customers left in the restaurant. I’m sure that the management were looking to shut up shop for the night when another pair of friends burst in asking whether it was too late to eat. Well the staff despite the fact that they had been winding down took this in their stride and happily accommodated them, for this I must award them a gold star.
I thoroughly enjoyed L’Auberge, but have to say that it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. It is very, very French and actually quite pricey when ordering a la carte, though the set appears to offer good value. I don’t know where to place it, it’s too pricey for cheap eats, too good to be simple casual dining and too old fashioned to be trendy. For me though I felt it was charming, nostalgic and had great food, which didn’t leave you feeling overly full. I (and I think the DDC) will return.
Bill for two 3 courses with wine & aperitif £122
22, Upper Richmond Road,