La Petite Maison (November 2012)

I am really surprised how polarised opinions appear to be about this restaurant. This is the third time I have been here and each time I have loved the whole experience and would undoubtedly return. One caveat, however: make sure someone else is paying, since it is not cheap! The heavy brown velvet curtain creates a sense of anticipation prior to entry and the dining room itself is lovely, beautifully light and spacious, a perfect antidote to a dull November day. Being seated on one of the tables against the wall on this occasion, I had feared that we would feel cramped or that we would be unable to make ourselves heard owing to the proximity of other diners. Neither proved to be a concern; on the contrary, the restaurant felt very much ‘alive’, full of action and laughter, but without ever feeling intrusive. While generally being somewhat sceptical about ‘concept’ food ideas, the idea of sharing dishes definitely works here, simply for the reason that it allows one to try a wide range of dishes. Both starters (of which we partook three) and mains (two) were presented well, highly flavoursome and, I am sure, the beneficiary of using only the freshest of ingredients. My dining comrade and I rated the mains more highly than the starters. The slow cooked duck legs with orange glaze was the highlight. A simple dish, prepared to perfection, tender and not too fatty duck with a tangy and flavoursome sauce. As mentioned previously, fortuitously I did not have the responsibility for the bill on this occasion, although a 0.5 litre carafe of house red (an agreeable Languedoc blend) for £40 did seem somewhat steep to say the least.