Birthday's in my family are often tricky occasions. I have 6 in my family so we celebrate one every other month or so. It's tricky to decide what to buy, demanding on the wallet but mainly, it's the frustration on where we are going to go for the birthday dinner that causes the most issues.
It's my dads turn and he is your standard chinaman. He wants no fuss and doesn't really care for presents. In fact, he has a special cupboard where we know most of our presents go, often totally unused. He does, however, like to eat. After perusing the menu at Cafe Anglais, I decided the vast food options had enough to cater for everyone tastes.
Located inside the Whiteley's shopping centre, the dining room is simple but elegant and a lot larger than I expected after entering through the rather unassuming shopping center entrance. Owing to roadworks, everyone else had trouble getting to the car park, so I munched on bread and radishes until everybody eventually arrived. Over 30 minutes later, everyone had arrived and we were finally ready to order.
Ordering a mix from the set menu and off the main menu, I will run through what I had a taste of, but if you want to check out the rest of the pictures, please have a look at them here.
Parmesan custard and anchovy toast - One of Cafe Anglais signature dishes. Anchovies and me do not agree but I gave it a go. They still don't agree but dad and erste schwester (who adore strong flavours) wolfed it down. Gone in about 3 minutes flat. Highly recommended, but not by me.
Cold roast venison, celeriac remoulade and pickled damsons - My single favourite dish of the evening, and probably in my top 5 of the year. The cold roast venison was absolutely packed with flavour, slightly gamey in taste but beefy in texture. The damsons added quite a strong sweet and sour dimension and the crunchy celeriac remoulade acted as a binding agent, mellowing out all the contrasting flavours. Even the watercress wasn't an unnecessary addition, adding a peppery layer to the end dish.
Rabbit terrine - Zweite Schwester's starter deserves a special mention. Smooth rabbit terrine served with thin, crisp toast and additional roast fennel. The slight gamey flavour of the rabbit was highly evident, with subtle undertones of star anise. Light and very very moreish.
Breast of veal, spinach and garlic stuffing - My main and *oof* it was a beast. A rolled breast of veal which was stuffed with a spinach and garlic stuffing. A fairly average dish which felt more like a chore eating it. The first mouthful was pleasurable but it was so heavy that after half had been consumed, I just had to stop and would definitely benefited from being smaller, and containing less stuffing. Close, but no cigar.
Chocolate and banana bread pudding - Banana cake, one of mankind's finest inventions. Made right, it is light, sweet and you just never want it to end. This version was heavy and the addition of the chocolate didn't really add too much to the flavours of the banana. It also felt quite dry and dousing it in the cream added a much needed moistness to the dish. Again, this was average and simply wasn't banana cake.
A meal of highs and lows. Most dishes were well executed but in parts slightly ill conceived. The starters (on the whole) hit the spot and got the meal off to a great start but the mains and desserts just didn't maintain the high standard.
I did feel the service was overbearing at times. We were enjoying our meal and taking our time, after all, my family doesn't get that many chances to get together. However, I felt the staff kept hovering around us, removing plates as quickly as possible as if to hurry us on without coming out and actually saying it. I may be being paranoid but I certainly didn't feel comfortable.
On the whole, everyone had a great time. All my dishes may not have hit the spot, but my family were very happy and everyone had a good time. My dad is a hard man to please, but for once, he really had no complaints. I now have another reason to visit Bayswater other than Chinese food and lobster noodles.
Le Cafe Anglais (website) - 8 Porchester Gardens, W2 4DB
I've been twice now and on both occasions have found that the starters and first courses far outperform the mains. Puddings can be good though. I wish I could choose Le Cafe Anglais for a birthday dinner, but my family are strictly pro-Chinese dinners when it comes to celebrations. Hence back to Pearl Liang for my mother's birthday tomorrow!
Oooh venison, now that does look good. Great autumn food! Have got such a great mental image of you with radishes and bread, radishes and bread...
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