I’ve never been sentimental about restaurants. As much as the fact that I live for food, I don’t care where it comes from, as long as it tastes good. Restaurants come, restaurants go. And more often than not as soon as a new one opens, I struggle to remember what stood in its place mere weeks ago. I mean sheesh, my brain can only retain so much, ok?
But last Friday night, as I arrived for dinner at Bistro du Vin, my heart skipped a beat.
The awnings are no longer red but there’s no mistaking it. Here at 40 St John Street once stood one of my favourite restaurants in London – Bjorn and Justine van der Horst’s Eastside Inn.
I was surprised by my unusually emotional response to seeing Bistro du Vin scrawled across the premise’s new green awnings. I mean, dude, it’s just a restaurant! But somehow, Eastside Inn carved a spot in my memory, not in the least because Justine and Bjorn were amazing hosts (and the latter a brilliant chef, of course). Where are they now? Does anyone know?
Update 16-May: Please see comment below from A Reader. Apparently Bjorn has been jailed for not paying child support. WOW. That paints everything in a different light, doesn’t it? Personality he may have had, but ethics? None!
Update again 16-May: See comment below from Laissez Fare. News is that both Bjorn and Justine are now running the restaurants and events at Six Senses resort, Maldives. Ah, the media. It perplexes my little head.
Anyway, I may have had a moment of uncharacteristic sentimentality, but I quickly shook it off and focused on the task at hand: downing my first three course meal since that surgery. Excitements.
The interior of Bistro du Vin is EXACTLY THE SAME as when it was Eastside Inn. I mean, I get that they can’t do a lot about that open kitchen in the middle of the room but the furniture? Light fittings? Decor? They could have at least changed the framed images across the walls (because I swear they haven’t). I was starting to harbour negative feelings towards the Hotel du Vin powerhouse behind this bistro venture until they brought out some bread – specifically some chocolate bread.
Ah, the powers of distraction.
I happily munched on chocolate bread and perused the menu. Negative feelings? What negative feelings?
The lack of negative feelings lasted for as long as it took to serve our starters. Panu ordered the lobster bisque and while the pungent smell of the dish hit the spot, the bisque itself was extremely watery and not at all creamy. If wikipedia says bisques are meant to be creamy, then I believe it, dammit.
My asparagus in sauce ravigote was much better. Salty and tangy over perfectly blanched asparagus. One fail, one good. Let’s see what the mains will bring.
English asparagus, sauce ravigote
The mains were better, Panu’s 250 grams fillet of Belted Galloway beef cooked to a pink medium rare, just the way he likes it. What made it even better was the pot of deliriously awesome garlic butter served on the side, which in my humble little opinion, it should be served completely drowned in.
Opting for the light-ish main, I chose the steamed hand dived scallops & prawns, served in sauce vierge. Five scallops and three prawns, a little steep for £22 but perfect for my still recovering digestive system.
I always wonder though, why don’t people serve scallops with the roe?
250 gram fillet Belted Galloway beef
steamed hand dived scallops and prawns, sauce vierge
sides: tomatoes & onions; grilled mushrooms
Finally, dessert. I ordered the iced raspberry soufflé and I’m not sure which part of “iced” I didn’t understand but I expected a soufflé. It came out looking like a soufflé, slightly raised from the ramekin and all that but imagine my surprise when my spoon hit the surface and instead of breaking into light, warm fluff, it hit solid ice.
Well, not solid to be fair but solid enough. This dessert is more like a big serve of raspberry sorbet which, once you get your head around that, is actually amazing. A perfect balance of sweet and tangy.
Panu had the ice cream selection which was apparently expletively awesome. I think Hawksmoor has created a monster with this cornflake ice cream thing.
iced raspberry soufflé
ice cream selection: cornflake, rum & raisin, dulce de lecce
All in all, the meal improved as it went along, and while there was a wobbly moment with my “soufflé”, it was still hands down my favourite course at Bistro du Vin and in fact, I wanted to inhale about five things on the dessert menu so if I come back, I’m coming back for dessert.
I couldn’t shake the deja vu of being in Eastside Inn though, the food isn’t quite on par but the whole ambience and the soul of the place… it’s Eastside Inn, but not. If anyone knows what venture Bjorn and Justine are up to these days, please let me know, I’d love to get in touch with them again!
Bistro du Vin
40 St John Street,
Clerkenwell, Ec1 4DL
0207 490 9230
Note: I was invited to dine as a guest of Bistro du Vin.