It's been a while since I reviewed a restaurant and it's not because I haven't been somewhere - far from it - the list on my phone grows ever longer, like a sticky note for my brain. What's happened is that the places I've jotted down are so good, I needed to sit down, take a quiet moment and have a good think about it. Here's the first, Casse-Croûte. I've spent time making sure I've got the accent right on the spelling of this one because I don't want there to be any doubt in your mind about where you are headed. Now, I'm going to make a big claim here: I think I've found my favourite restaurant in London.
As a Francophile, I'm biased on this one. To me, there is nothing better injecting some Parisienne glamour into your day and Casse-Croûte does just that. It occurred to me part way through the meal that I'd totally forgotten I was in London. Oh London with all its oppressive sound effects and chicken bones, fag ends and pigeon poo that scar it. London is a living organism, heaving with all many of cultures. Paris is pretty similar in its dirty, weather beaten appearance and its variety of inhabitants but the difference is when you walk the streets in Paris, you might not see a single soul, save for when you walk into a bistro.
Casse-Croûte is just the sort of hive of activity you'd expect, but unlike in France, you won't be able to just able in off the street. It is tiny. With only a few covers (I counted eight tables of two?), you'll require a reservation. Oh and reservations haven't caught up with the modern world here. They'll be no tweeting them for a table at 7pm, no, you'll need to call them the good old fashioned way.
It's all part of the experience. From the moment the proprietor answers the phone in a heavy French accent, you are transported. You are already dreaming of the creme brulee, the coq au vin and the tables just close enough for you to hear the table next door air out their dirty laundry.
The menu is written on a blackboard and it changes daily. There are three options per course to choose from, and unless you are fluent, your waitress will translate and explain it for you.
I ordered a carafe of wine, and my friend and I ordered different thing for every course and then shared all of it. There's a real delight in this, a spoon of delicious fish quenelle here, a dip of warm french bread into melting cheese there. There is also charcuterie on offer.
At your feet might sit a well behaved dog, waiting for a tit bit, and if conversation falls silent, there's plenty to look at as the walls are cluttered with logos, pictures and old bottles that so perfectly conjure up that image of Paris for you.