Soutine, St John’s Wood

Take a look at Fischer’s or Colbert and you’ll see Corbin and King know how to make a bloody good neighbourhood restaurant. The latest addition to this subtle empire is Soutine on St John’s Wood High Street, North London.

Arguably their nicest looking yet, Giles Coren best sums it up in his Times review: “It has been magnificently overhauled to look just like the sexiest goddam Parisian café since 1920s Montparnasse.” He ain’t wrong. The café cum bar at the front and dining room out the back are both stunning.

We start by sharing a whole globe artichoke (£10.75). I message my friend Hugh asking how to correctly eat the thing. “Pull off the leaves and dip them in the vinaigrette. Eat the soft part and discard the tough part. ” We do as he says. It’s delicious.

Escargots à la Bourguignonne (£8.25 for 6), that’s snails, are rich and garlicky. We prize the plump morsels out of their shells and enjoy their mushroom-like texture. It’s all terribly fun and fiddly.

Prawn and avocado cocktail (£9.75) is a fine example of a classic. Use fresh, quality produce and don’t muck about with it too much and you can’t go wrong. It’s the sort of food you want to eat.

The simplicity continues with steak frites et salade (£18.50). The beef is cooked rare with just the right amount of chew to it. Chips are salty and fresh from the fryer while a salad dressed in a tangy vinaigrette brings it all together. I order more béarnaise, as you can never have too much of a good thing.

Over on the comfort-factor end of the spectrum, daube of boeuf with celeriac purée and carrots (£21) gets full marks. It’s a plate of soft, squidgy loveliness. The fat on the beef melts into the rich gravy while generous seasoning turns celeriac into something remotely flavoursome.

Corbin & King regulars will recognise the black forest gateau (£5.25) from The Delaunay. It’s a gorgeous pud here too; light sponge, fresh whipped cream, chocolate bits and sharp cherries.

It’s the art at Soutine which makes the place so special – there’s something framed to admire at every glance. FYI, Chaïm Soutine was an expressionist artist. You can read more about its paintings, and a large mural by artist Michael May which follows the staircase up to the loos, in this Caterer article.

Whether it’s a pitt stop for a coffee and cake or a leisurely steak frites, Soutine will suit you rather well. It’s a neighbourhood restaurant, sure, but we find ourselves travelling from South to North London twice in one week to visit, it’s that good.

Would we go back? Oh yes.
This was not an invitation, we were expecting to pay, but when we asked for the bill it was very kindly waived