Work commitments found me cooped up in a back street boozer in London’s Elephant and Castle, south of the river. Upon enquiry with my host as to the whereabouts of a decent nosh up, it was suggested the ‘eat as much as you can’ Chinese on the first floor of the local shopping precinct was as good as it gets! I was somewhat perturbed. Further pressure finally coaxed from the depths of his memory murky details of a little French place somewhere close. He even recalled that cockney regular Terry, had “took his a bird there but it cost him hundred nicker’. I pressed further and within minutes I had stumbled into Toulouse Lautrec situated on Newington Butts in Kennington.
It was a warm and welcoming entrance, particularly as I was dining without the flame. The dining room is long, narrow and on two levels. Dark wooden panelling and wooden steps gave the impression I was walking onto an old galleon. A very pleasant French waitress set up a single table on the upper deck right by the window looking out onto the busy street. Several tables were already burbling away nicely with business chaps. Jazz music, evidently a big feature of the place was plonking away in the background. Having forgotten my readers the exquisite font adorning the menu made me plump straight for the three courses for £27 special. And ye gods it was special.
Starters was a clam and mustard cassoulet, in basil cream and crispy toasts. It was absolutely sensational, one of the finest starter dishes I have had in many years. Great flavours and beautifully presented in a small cast iron pot.
Main course was guinea fowl, courgettes, garlic mushrooms and beautifully soft, barrel shaped fondant potatoes. Set in a large blue and yellow bowl it looked and tasted superb. The sommelier, clearly very talented brought me a glass of light, Spanish red to accompany. All rather grand. As good as this was I couldn’t help looking across with some envy as three chaps dove into a huge hearty bowl of cassoulet to share. The groans of delight seemed to suggest that this was also ‘hitting the spot’.
I finished off with my standard tarte au citron, complete with ‘kumquat’!
I have to say after what was looking like a night in my room with a KFC and pint of mild, Toulouse Lautrec came bounding to the rescue to produce arguably the best meal I’ve had in ages. So, even as a Northerner helpless in the great Metropolis, I would have no hesitation in wheedling out this gallic gem.
140 Newington Butts, Kennington, London SE11 4RN
0207 582 6800