Casse Croute joins a number of restaurants that have crept up on me seemingly under the radar, that are now jabbing me urgently and noisily between the ribs. Dairy – jab – Picture – jab – Toast – jab – Casse Croute - jab Jab JAB.
By the time I’ve been nudged persistently enough to get around to booking a table, Fay, Marina and Grace have already joined forces to just about whip it out of the game with a trio of glowing reviews which consequently give my friend a lengthy phone habit just to get through to reservations. Just my side of the river enough for me to feel more loyal than has more recently been the case, this tiny French restaurant, literally opposite Jose’s, joins a rather fabulous celebration of food that is Bermondsey Street and it’s surrounding streets, spilling up towards Maltby Street and the Spa Terminus of a weekend. I’ve strolled past a number of times recently and wondered at the bustle crammed into, and looking close to exploding out of, the small space, without really registering the name – it appearing to have always resided here, as part of the European escapism that the Street has become.
I visit with two friends on a gloomy Tuesday evening. A third chair has been wedged down the side of a tiny two person table, spitting distance to the one next door, a flimsy glass door that insists on swinging open throughout our meal adds comedic value to rather surly and irreverent service, forgivable, in part, due to the staffs easy on the eye nature. It’s tiny, cluttered, noisy, faintly uncomfortable and yet heartfelt and honest – every Gallic cliche and yet not a pastiche.
Rather than starters, we hit the charcuterie chalked up on a blackboard, and any discomfort is forgiven as plates start arriving, wine is eventually plonked down, and our tiny table starts to fill up. Wafer thin Saucisson and Rosette de Lyon are masterfully sliced on machines at the bar and fed hungrily via plate straight into our greedy mouths, but it’s the rillettes that has us demanding another basket of bread with which to mop up every last shred of unctuously tender, fat flecked pork.
Having completely forgotten already taking our orders for mains, we have to prompt our pretty waiter and eventually a hat trick of Parmentier de Canards arrive (quite inexcusable ordinarily, not to have the opportunity to try other items, but the menu is short and none of us are prepared to have quite *this* food envy) with matching dinky bowls of salad. Although appearing diminuative in size (they still dwarf our table) both dishes pack a serious punch, the unnanounced salad as much for it’s downright delicious simplicity – sorcery perhaps? It looks innocuous enough, but has a dressing that I imagine must be made from unicorn vomit and faerie spit that clings seductively to each leaf, I’m bereft when I hit the glass bottom. The individual little pies are dangerous things, for I can’t help myself from forking scalding mouthfuls into my gob, violently blistering beneath it’s butter rammed potato lid, of satisfyingly chunky duck pieces, gloriously rich and cut through perfectly with that slippery little salad; I curse as I continue to scorch myself with such decadent morsels.
A second bottle of Merlot down and feeling quite content at this stage to leave it here, well I am, until one of my friends flags up Il Flotante on the menu. Game over. We both order one and spend the next few minutes after it’s arrival bathed in perfectly poached sugary sweet happiness. I’m not sure I’ve come across a rendition illustrated with such saccharine perfection, it’s an utterly, diabetes inducing, joy.
I can’t quite put my finger on why I like Casse Croute as much as I do; a charming sum made up of not quite perfect parts. But I do. A lot. A fantastic spot, I’d imagine, for a leisurely lunch or, in our case, a very enjoyable early evening indulgence.