Le Quecumbar

Wine Bars in London

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42-44 Battersea High Street
London
Greater London
SW11 3HX

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Great experience, though the food falls short...

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If I'm brutally honest, and let's face it – I tend to be, one does not go to Le Quecumbar for fine dining, not even for authentic French cuisine. One goes to experience Le Quecumbar. And it is an utterly unique experience. The closest I have ever come to it was actually in a brasserie in France, on a balmy summer night listening to Romane, probably the greatest living gypsy guitarist, strumming away in the corner surrounded by his doting fans, tourists and protégées. Now, I have a vested interest. I love gypsy swing. (For those who don't know, think Django Rheinhart. For the plebs among you, think Jonny Depp in Chocolate. If you must.)Le Quecumbar is a fine, fine jazz venue, and the only one in the UK dedicated largely to the performance and promotion of gypsy swing and traditional Romany music. Because of this, Le Quecumbar hosts some of the greatest gypsy swing musicians in the world and I would strongly recommend that any one with a passing interest to go and enjoy!So, on to the review!As I said, this is principally a music venue and for most gigs you will need to buy tickets in advance. Le Que operates a rather curious “minimum £15 per head spend” policy, though frankly I've never found to be a problem. The beer isn't cheap, and once you've had a gin and a bottle of wine you're over that any way.The menu is disappointing. I think it has recently been changed as not so long ago I remember seeing quite a selection of traditional French dishes on the menu. On my last visit however there was no coq-au-vin (which used to be excellent), no cheese board (we did negotiate one, but it boasted a pretty poor supermarket selection), a few too many burgers and BBQ ribs for my liking. So note: Do Not Go Expecting a French Dinner.I started with escargots, which were delicious if a little mean and a little dear. I followed with a very rich, if slightly salty, beef bourguignon. These two dishes, good though they were, were more or less the only references to traditional French cuisine and satisfied rather than impressed me.They do, however, boast a stonkingly good wine list! There is enough middle range, reasonably priced wine there to keep the session drinkers and large parties happy but you can quite easily push the boat out and enjoy some very fine drinking indeed. With familiar disregard to the “Frenchness” of the Le Que, the wine list does not limit itself to serving exclusively French plonk, for which I applaud it! I've been to too many French restaurants which ruin themselves by arrogantly and mistakenly restrict themselves to serving only French wine. (Insert your preferred racial slur here.)For all that the food was not amazing (it was good, mind you, just not amazing) dinner at Le Que, especially when there is a band playing, is a wonderful, wonderful experience. The staff really are top drawer. I mean, Proper Good! Sharp, attentive, discrete, knowledgeable and passionate about the place. And the Proprietaire is one of the best hostesses I have come across. Charming, glamorous, attentive and sociable, she makes a point of greeting all the diners during the evening. Admittedly many of them she knows, as it's the kind of place where you get a lot of returning customers, but even if you're a stranger you'll be attended to in your turn.So, I would reluctantly recommend that you go there for dinner. Therefore I am docking one star. However, if you want a night out with some wonderful music, a good meal, some great wine and all the glitz, glamour, and ambience of 1930s Paris then I challenge you to find a better place outside of France itself!In the mean time I am going to order another bottle of this excellent Bordeaux and continue to pray for the arrival of a modern, French chef…

A User - 02/11/2008 | report this review

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