Address: 63 Charterhouse St, Clerkenwell, London, EC1M 6Hj
Bookings: no booking needed
There aren’t many things in life more miserable than a wet Tuesday weeknight. But then again, there aren’t many remedies for misery better than a trip to an excellent French restaurant that serves large glasses of inexpensive wine and enormous, tender duck breasts as if they were going out of fashion.
Well aware of this, we braved the rain (actually we huddled in an Uber) and shot off to Comptoir Gascon, the little brother of neighbouring Michelin-starred restaurant Club Gascon. Overlooking London’s oldest market, Smithfield, where meat has been bought and sold for over 800 years (and, for our Scottish readership, also the place where William Wallace was hung, drawn and quartered), Comptoir Gascon serves up cuisine from the Southwest of France.
I lost no time in ordering the aptly named ‘piggy treats.’ Served on a wooden platter, it is a lesson in the utility of pigs, serving one up in almost every way imaginable: a fried pig’s ear, black pudding, pork pate, a dried sausage, Bayonne ham, a confit sausage. Never have I felt more gratitude to a four-legged creature.
My partner in culinary crime ordered a sea bream ceviche, which was delightfully fresh and sharp to the taste, and followed this up with a succulent steak, a little cluster of garlic perched on top of it.
I ordered the duck burger, which was as decadent as it sounds, arriving with a rich slab of foie gras draped across the bird’s back like a tribute.
The restaurant itself is small and dimly lit, rustic in feel, drowsy French music interrupted only by the occasional shriek of merriment from the kitchen staff downstairs, which was unorthodox, but not off-putting.
The only drawback to the meal was a side-dish of sautéed greens, which had a nauseating after-taste and smelt like it had been doused in a particularly pungent bubble bath.
Well-cleansed vegetables aside, I recommend this restaurant whole-heartedly. It is actually better than its Michelin-starred sibling, both in food and atmosphere, and is cheaper to boot. So, next time the rain is falling and weekend is oh so far away, hop in a taxi and make your way down to Smithfield Market, and discover all the wonderful things that can be done with a pig.