Brasserie Vachein Croydon

I dare you to look at this menu and not want pretty much anything on it.

I’ve been eating at BVC for years now, both in its current and more stripped back “Fish and Grill” incarnation. Probably 50 meals, and never a duff one. Many have been excellent. This is an exemplary restaurant, and I’m very happy to live 10 mins from it.

The guvnor, Malcolm John is clearly a talented and versatile chef. He’s worked at a number of very highly rated Central London restaurants and started on his own in Chiswick with a reportedly (haven’t been gets great reviews) excellent up market French restaurant “Le Vacherin. He then set up in Croydon and Sutton and after having a fine dining and a stripped back grill in Croydon, he has combined both to form BV.

The thing that makes this place so excellent is that the vision of a classic brassiere menu is so well executed. There’s not too much guff about ingredient provenance, which is quite refreshing. I’ve never seen the fetishisation of suppliers as has become the norm in London in France. The key is the technique in the kitchen.

Take my baked Vacherin starter. The truffle and almond crust could very easily have swamped it. But it didn’t. The side salad of bitter endive with a subtle dressing is a perfect accompaniment and a statement of intent. Something that is very simple, but the dressing is perfectly emulsified and it’s flavour complements the leaf and cheese. Many local and some rather more famous places don’t do this as well.

It’s dull having steak at a place like this, as the other dishes are so good, but if you can persuade another person on the table, the chateaubriand and trimmings has always been brilliant. I had the rabbit in mustard sauce with some great crispy chips and some excellent buttered samphire, and it was near faultless. Well seasoned, perfectly tender and moist, creamy but punchy sauce. My mum’s fish stew was probably the best thing anyone had. Lots of different fish, perfectly cooked so it was just done, in a lovely broth. Gut feeling is it’s just raw at the pass and get to the table just cooked. Brave but brilliant.

Then there’s the desert. I often don’t nowadays as my son Aidan has only so much patience. I still dream about a plum and almond tart they used to do with creme anglaise which really showed the skill in the kitchen. It wasn’t just very good (like everything else) it was the sort of food you’d comment on being good somewhere with a far higher reputation. Short pastry with a frangipan filling and roast plum that wasn’t purely sweet, but a little tart as well.

Add to this a wine list that doesn’t try too hard, Chateau du Brieul Calvados and attentive, friendly and professional service that makes you feel welcome and you’ve got an excellent local restaurant.

A word on cost. It’s not cheap, but it shouldn’t be for this quality. It’s good value and one can box clever and eat there regularly (as I have done), or it can be something of a destination restaurant and the boat can be well and truly pushed out for treat.

Kirsty and I had wonderful nights falling in love there at a corner table for four they let us always have. We now go there with Aidan and a lot with various members of our families. It’s my standard response if anyone ever asks “does Croydon have a properly good restaurant?”

As you probably tell, I love this restaurant, long may it last.


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