Review: Hearty French Fare at Gazette Brasserie (Balham)
Published 29 October 2011
I’ve recently been reminded of the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” recently, on a trip to Gazette Brasserie in Balham. The visit was entirely accidental – although it was driven by a hunger for some good food.
From the outside, Gazette looks like many of the other generic restaurants in Balham – modern looking, with hints of a bar and pub, making it half restaurant, half brasserie, and half bar. Which typically means a lack of focus on any one thing, and therefore mediocre food.
Gazette Brasserie was different, and I was surprised by the high quality of food served. Almost fine dining standard – but at reasonable prices, and in casual surroundings. Its so casual, that they provide a pot of chalk on every table, to enable diners to unleash their creativity while waiting for their food.
There’s a standard menu, full of typical French fare. And then there’s the special daily menu – which really excited us. Dishes like Pig Cheeks in Winter Vegetable Broth and Suckling Pig Cooked Four Ways. Which we went for without hesitation!
The Pig Cheeks were probably some of the most tender and flavourful we’ve had, and we had to stop ourselves from slurping the tasty broth, full of its flavour. A simple-sounding and simple-looking dish, but cooking pig cheeks takes skill, and lots of patience to create a great broth from simple vegetables such as purple yams, cabbage, carrots, and potatoes.
Suckling Pig Four Ways was exactly that – four different parts of the suckling pig, cooked in different ways, on top of a bed of baked potato gratin dauphinois. Each part of the pig was cooked beautifully, with the crispy skin charred just right, and the meat juicy and tender. The gratin dauphinois was seasoned just right, with the right level of creaminess. It went really well to compliment the salty and rosemary-spiced suckling pig.
Overall, its not the cheapest place – it was around £15 and £17 for our two dishes. But I’ve paid much more for more mediocre fare in posher restaurants. And the casual dining atmosphere is nice – no expectations, no tension. Just great food, in a great environment.
The Gazette Brasserie (Balham branch)
Address: The Gazette Brasserie, 100 Balham High Road, Balham, London SW12 9AA
Reservation Tel: 020 8772 1234