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La Brasserie, Ma Cuisine Bourgeoise

2 Whitton Road, Twickenham, Middlesex

John McClements has recently repositioned his formerly eponymous restaurant. Having achieved a Michelin Star he didn't want to dance to their tune anymore and has re-opened as a showcase for his more robust traditional French brasserie cuisine. Next door but one is his engaging little Ma Cuisine Le Petit Bistrot, but the kitchen extends across the rear, serving both restaurants. Four of us ate in the Brasserie and we enjoyed it so much we can't wait to try the Bistrot.

The dining room itself is thankfully not outré faux-French: it has wood topped tables and not terribly comfortable chairs with very straight backs. Mild discomfort was immediately forgotten, as the sight of the menu soon proved very diverting. Offal lovers are in paradise, but there are plenty of other options, including some good fishy ones - click here for the menu as of late April.

The parmentier of pig's trotter was delicious. The trotter is slow cooked then the lip coating sticky meat is chopped into mashed potato to make a sort of bubble and oink patty, served with a classic gribiche sauce, (chopped hardboiled egg with capers etc).  The rabbit and ham terrine appeared in its large earthenware dish, to be dug into and served at the table. It was held together by a good tight fennel flavoured jelly - very satisfying. I had a very delicate lobster mousse prettily but not fussily presented with a shellfish based sauce. I thought the star was the Zarzuela, a dish from the Pays Basque, like a chilled fish soup that included bite sized pieces of lobster and oysters set in a brilliant jelly, flavoured and coloured characteristically with saffron.

That was a really good start to the meal and we were raring to get down to the main course. A good meaty fillet of John Dory came with grilled fennel and pork stuffed cabbage, which looked rather like dolmades or stuffed vine leaf. The saddle of lamb with a cassoulet of Merguez sausage, I thought was brilliant. It's slowly cooked on a very low heat, so it looks evenly pink, but has a texture that's almost mousse like. My friend took fright and asked for it to be cooked a little more, which was done quickly and effectively without any attitude. Riz de Veau, calves' sweetbreads, were beautifully caramelised on the outside and meltingly tender within, with braised little gem lettuce and celeriac. I had the Tête de Porc, another slow cooked number, the unctuous meat topped with the brains coated in breadcrumbs and sautéed gently. So, lots of excellent details, carefully chosen and very ably executed. Although there was plenty of the main ingredient, our only slight criticism was that they could have been more generous with  the garnishes. 

Nevertheless, we had room for the puddings which were all very good indeed. I'd like to take the Tart Tatin to the Entrecôte Café de Paris to show them just how crisp the pastry was, with fruit that had a hint of toffee at the edges. Two tarts, one chocolate, the other lemon were both excellent, with nice pastry - my lemon tart had a crisp brûlée topping. The piece de resistance was a rhubarb soufflé that had risen so perfectly and evenly, well worth the 20 minute wait (it felt more like ten). 

There's a good wine list, but there's nothing under £20, which we thought was a bit steep, though our Pinot Noir from Burgundy's most Northerly vineyards near Auxerre was quite pleasant. By contrast, the Spanish restaurant I disparaged earlier had a whole page of really interesting and unusual wines all priced between twelve and twenty pounds.  But we thoroughly enjoyed the excellent cooking and I have no hesitation in giving La Brasserie Dine Online's hearty recommendation.

Clifford Mould April 2006

La Brasserie, Ma Cuisine Bourgeoise
2 Whitton Road, Twickenham, Middx TW1 1BJ
T: 020 8744 9598

Open 12noon - 3pm and 7pm -10.30pm Monday to Saturday
Starters £6.00-£8.50; Mains £15.00 - £19.00; Puds £6.50ish

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