Restaurant review: Bonneville, E5

Bonneville's interior is a mish-mash of oddments that somehow look great

Bonneville's interior is a mish-mash of oddments that somehow look great - Credit: Archant

Unfussy French food comes to Clapton

Despite the well-documented changing demographic of Clapton, the sight of a fully-fledged French restaurant squashed between a convenience store and a leisure centre is still a bit incongruous.

But there’s nothing stuck about or snobby about Bonneville - the staff are friendly, the food’s good, reasonably cheap, and it’s no surprise the tables are filling up, not just from the area, but further afield as well.

From the outside, it’s all shabby chic and looks a bit like a scruffy pub – the interior is guarded from the elements by Parisian style heavy drape curtains. Once inside it’s an Aladdin’s Cave of bric-a-brac, including mismatched plates and cutlery, that half Belgium owner Ruairi has cobbled together in way that is somehow greater than the sum of its parts – the place looks fantastic.

Most impressive of all are the toilets – after picking up a couple of doors from the old Clerkenwell prison, Ruairi ended up using them as the theme; the net result is like a trip to the London Dungeons, complete with macabre ornaments, creepy music and dry ice.

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The bar at the front is nice for a drink – ranging from the obligatory locally brewed ale to heavy duty cocktails done with some aplomb; mine came with ice chipped off a New York style block and essence of Laphroaig sprayed to give it a peaty nose.

From the bar snacks – saucisson, baked Camembert etc – to the desserts, the menu is dripping with Gallic flair, but nothing seems fussy or over the top.

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The moules marinière were swimming in the thickest, creamiest garlic and white wine sauce it’s ever been my pleasure to ingest, while the French onion soup, with a hint of too much bitterness, was still hearty and laden with cheesy croutons.

The steak was an exercise in satisfying simplicity – an unflashy cut of rump, cooked to the right side of medium rare, a piquant béarnaise and skin on frites.

The lemon sole, meanwhile, was a bit more adventurous, swimming with lemon and prawn and lifted with capers, but still stuck to the task in hand with aplomb.

An inch-perfect creme brûlée followed, and of course everything was accompanied by glasses from the elegantly chosen winelist. Bonneville is a cracking out of town restaurant serving neighbourhood-style French cuisine.

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