For some strange reason, Knightsbridge boasts about the most eclectic restaurant scene in London in a very small area. You’ve got everything from hideous, incredibly overpriced Italian restaurants that cater solely to has-been celebrities, to some of the best examples of Moroccan and Lebanese food in the capital. You’ve got chi-chi cafes aimed at ladies who lunch, and you’ve got spit and sawdust pubs (incredible though it might seem) where a request for a ciabatta will bring incredulity and possibly physical violence upon the asker.
Yet what seems to be coalescing into a trend down the V&A end of the Old Brompton Road is the French brasserie-cum-bistro. There are at least three notable examples: Henry Harris’ excellent Racine, Marlon Abela’s Cassis and, last but certainly not least, the inauspiciously named Brompton Bar and Grill. Let’s be honest, it’s not an eye-catching name. It’s easy to confuse it with the Brompton Quarter Cafe just round the corner, maybe even the Brompton Oratory. (That would be an unfortunate mistake to make.) But it’s also a plain, unfussy sort of name that sums up what it’s doing in a serviceable way, and then moves on swiftly.
I was visiting with the Cap’n, himself a plain, unfussy sort of man. He was returning to the ships imminently, and was muttering something about being quartered out in Jakarta. As someone who has only the faintest idea where Jakarta is (abroad, very much abroad), I decided that he’d enjoy something that verged on the traditional comfort food. And the BB & G (to coin a name) is very much into classic French cuisine, at very reasonable prices. My starter of snails, bacon, girolles and bone marrow on toast was ambitious but never over-frilly, while the Cap’n demolished a proper old-school steak tartare with aplomb.
Main courses were similarly unpretentious, and similarly excellent. A really good rib-eye steak came with beautifully rich Bearnaise sauce and crunchy, satisfying chips. Meanwhile, the Cap’n asked for the special of grouse, was denied it (they’d just run out) and had woodcock instead, which was the same in all but bird. It was rich, gamey and magnificent. We had a bottle of the house red with these, a surprisingly drinkable creation called Le Bosq, and superb value at £15.50. Desserts are heartily enjoyable, with a rich sticky toffee pudding and a good crumble sending us off into the Old Brompton Road with smiles on our faces.
The Cap’n pronounced himself heartily satisfied, a sentiment that I had to agree with. It’s not going to trouble Michelin, but it was packed to the brim with customers on our visit, and that’s pretty good going when one sees the Marie Celeste-like operations that are miserably festooning our streets at the moment. This, you rather get the impression, will not be going that way.
The Brompton Bar & Grill, 243 Brompton Road, Knightsbridge, London SW3 2EP. Tel. 020 7589 8005. Website.