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La Peche
Louise Elgin flushes out a tantalising taste of France

A French restaurant specialising in fish was an inviting prospect on a cold, miserable, wet Wednesday evening in London. It was also in my part of town, just a stone's throw from Baker Street Station, an area which has always a bit of a gastronomic wasteland, so I was very pleased to try a new addition.

We were met by the very welcoming manager and shown to a table. Whilst sipping a large glass of kir to whet the appetite, I was struck that we were sitting in a very empty room, just a couple of other tables were occupied and at first I was troubled by this, the atmosphere being understandably subdued. Atmosphere is a very important part of eating out to me and if one can easily hear other people's conversations its hard to have a private one of your own.

Even though we were just off the Marylebone Road, Glentworth Street seems light years removed, surrounded by large imposing mansion flats. It was totally quiet outside, and the room we were sitting in felt a little like the foyer of a hotel, in fact a lot of restaurants in France are similarly styled so I even felt a little removed from London, a surreal experience!

The menu, as the name suggests was predominately fish-based; however, there were meat and veggie choices for those who preferred It. But I wasn't about to go to a specialist fish to order meat, so I chose a French classic, soupe de poissons. This was just as it should be, with a good flavour, rich and velvety in texture and plenty of rouille, gruyère and croutons. I think a good fish soup can't be beaten and they certainly won points for theirs. Even though it arrived piping hot I had soon guzzled the lot!

Our other choice arrived looking so tempting that only my manners stopped me from leaning over and swiping it all! Beautifully presented tiger prawns, that were succulent, garlicky, herbed and flambéed in brandy, were also polished off in a few minutes - especially the sauce - mopped to a clean plate with pieces of baguette. These two starters were in the £5 - £8 range which is fairly standard pricing.

Very pleased with our starters, but with plenty of room left we then moved onto our main course. We had chosen pan-fried fillets of halibut with wild mushrooms, artichokes, new potato salad and a balsamic tomato dressing, at £17.75 this was on the expensive side, but we both had to concede that although the room was not quite to our liking in atmosphere and decor, we had scored a bullseye with the food.

The halibut arrived beautifully sculpted on top of the potato salad and was a wonderful mixture of tastes, finished off nicely with the balsamic and tomato dressing. I had also chosen very well with grilled seabass, £16.95, served with gratinée yellow and green courgettes, plum tomatoes and gruyère cheese. It arrived piled high with a large helping of rocket salad on the top, which I was very happy about as I love rocket. The combination of flavours was of herbs, lemons, freshness and lightness, a real taste of the Mediterranean. The seabass itself was succulent and all round first class. We were sipping a very crisp Pouilly Fume - at around £24 it seemed fairly reasonably priced and it certainly complimented the food.

Puddings varied from the dietician's nightmare that is chocolate truffle cake with creme Anglaise, to the tempting selection of cheeses. We shared a Tarte Tatin with vanilla ice-cream which arrived looking very appetising but was the only thing we ate that wasn't so special, the pastry being damp and flabby, the apple leaving a rather over-sweet aftertaste. We finished with an Irish Coffee which too, was French in its make up, well, one can't expect them to be experts in all things Irish and....... was interesting, very creamy, even arriving with a straw!

If La Peche could create a different feel to its dining-room, maybe add some Venetian blinds, soften the lighting, change the music to create a more romantic, intimate atmosphere this could work wonders for business, as beneath this slightly awkward interior lies the potential to be a much sought after and excellent dining-room.

Louise Elgin December 2000

La Peche
12-14 Glentworth Street
London NW1
Tel 020 7935-0212

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