The summer months are when I always feel the need to escape Central London, and although Chiswick is only just at the western edge, it still offers that feeling of having reached suburbia whilst being extremely easy to get to. It was historically part of Middlesex so you are fully justified in claiming to have fled the Big Smog even if it is for a brief hour or two before you take the North / South Circular home. And if you can stay for a little longer, feel free to take a stroll around Chiswick House Gardens, fit in a little history by visiting Hogarth’s House or just wonder at the price of hip antiques nowadays at The Old Cinema. Not that I would send you all the way to Chiswick just for the sake of a little culture or greenery. Whatever you do, you want to make sure the mainstay of your visit is to see Charlotte.
Charlotte’s Bistro is not for the picky eater or the non-drinker. I’m sure they’d make you welcome but you’d really be missing out on all the fun. Your first stop should be to the bar at the front of the restaurant. It opens directly onto the street via large bi-folding doors that are pushed back the moment there’s the hint of any sunshine. Here, propped on one of the bar stools you can sample the many wines, exotic bottled beers and freshly made seasonal cocktails available whilst enjoying the thrill of the barmen mixing their next concoction. Beware though, the bar is often busy so remember to bring some sharp elbows and your best conversational wit with which to dazzle your fellow drinkers and earn your stool.
Fortunately, I had blagged one of the more intimate two-seater booths that line the wall opposite the bar; here my dining partner and I conducted a duel over who could order the most girlie cocktail with which to wow the elusive Charlotte, who would surely put in an appearance given our status as professional gluttons. The Bramble, a champagne and berry potion, seemed a sure bet, but not to be outdone my date ordered the Rhubarb Mule. Now I’m all for a guy who can carry off a pink shirt and socks and still look manly but I’d challenge even the hardiest specimens of manliness supping from the lip of this pale pink drink complete with rhubarb stirrer, to still look masculine. It was clearly time to make a swift move into the dining area and the safety of the wine list before anyone else noticed.
Located at the rear of a long terraced house, the dining area is rather more sunlit than expected since it sits under a large glazed roof. The décor is simple but contemporary, reflecting the style of food here. Head chef Wesley Smalley has certainly gone out of his way to create a sensational and surprising menu. But he has also spent time ensuring flavours complement each other well and are regularly updated to stay seasonal, making each course a gastronomic experience the likes of which would please even Heston Blumenthal’s rather outlandish palate.
Watermelon was served as a hefty slice but delicately topped with tomatoes, peppers and goat’s cheese; for a summer’s afternoon the bursts of refreshing flavours balanced perfectly any overpowering that may have otherwise come from the cheese. Silver mullet arrived perfectly crisp with a raspberry jus and a heap of mustard-flavoured giant couscous. Even my more traditional chocolate fondant oozed onto tonka bean ice cream and salted caramel brittle. All dishes appeared beautifully presented on the plate, creating a hushed intake of breath as each course appeared. In fact you can stop worrying about what you will talk about over dinner here, the menu and taste sensations that follow will be more than enough to keep you occupied. Charlotte’s has been known for serving more traditional fare but let’s hope its recent flair for fun continues.
With full stomachs and happy grins at having shared such a novel feast, we headed back to the buzz of the bar to finish our wine and catch up on all the gossip we had been so far too busy to discuss. Somehow the drink and ambience continued to distract us and I never did track Charlotte down.
Charlotte’s Bistro, 6 Turnham Green Terrace, London W4 1QP. Tel: 020 8742 3590. Website.