Friday, 17 April 2009

'Allo 'Allo!

It's a bit early to be reporting the first restaurant to be opened by one of my student peers from Westminster Kingsway College. After all, with the exception of the odd former mature student, we're all still in our very early twenties - which by anyone's standards is a tad young to become a restaurateur. But Florent Regent - one year above me in college and at one time my supervisory third year - has done exactly that with the launch of the Brasserie & Wine Bar Toulouse Lautrec in Kennington.

Toulouse Lautrec Brasserie & Winebar in KenningtonIt does help, of course, if your family are in the hospitality industry. In Florent's case, his parents have been running the Lobster Pot restaurant next door for nearly two decades, offering guests a cheerful touch of sunny Brittany in dark and gloomy South London. But, as they say, Judy Murray may have been a good tennis coach but that didn't guarantee that her son would become Britain's #1 player. Whereas from what I've read, Florent is certainly making a name for himself around the Elephant & Castle (an area believed to have been thusly named by locals unable to master the name of Edward I's Spanish wife Eleanor, the Infanta de Castile.)

Judging from an initial glance at the excellent reviews in Toptable and The Guardian since the place opened, you'd wonder whether there was a credit crunch out there. But look more closely and you can begin to see the real secret of Florent's success. Great brasserie cooking, of course. Without that, there's nothing. And Westminster Kingsway College is certainly famous for its great brasserie cooking. But there's also a simple, unambiguous and elegant theme running through the place, with its piano and wine bar, late evening jazz, "La Cave" salle privée, chef's table in the kitchen, Gallic wine cellar and Gauloise indulgence area up on the roof. Dining out should always be a total sensory experience, and Florent has a very clear vision of what he wants that experience to be at his new restaurant. Did I mention age? Yes - Florent is my generation, so he knows the importance of the internet. The restaurant offers wine bar customers free WIFI and the brasserie has its own website and its own Facebook page.

Florent Regent"Slow cooked lamb was melt in the mouth, the bavette steak an unusual and delicious cut and both had lovely accompanying sauces. The chips looked strange but were tasty, fluffy and addictive! Starters of grilled mussels, mushroom soup and duck and confit gizzard salad also very good. This is becoming a local restaurant to be proud of" writes one happy customer.

I must confess that my initial thought on seeing the name Toulouse Lautrec was to wonder whether alcoholism, syphilis, voyeurism, dwarfism, osteopetrosis and inbreeding make the ideal image for a family eaterie. But apart from art history students, everyone else associates Toulouse Lautrec with great art, music in the background, and above all those posters of the Moulin Rouge which so perfectly characterise a damned fine night out. And from the look of the customer feedback, that's exactly what Florent is delivering.

Thanks to Ewan Munro for the pub photo.


The Boston Foodie said...

Must be nice being part of that new generation of celebrity chefs.

Lizzie said...

I consider North London to be dark and gloomy ;-)

Thanks for the recommendation.

ferretneckcancer8's blog said...

Hi Aiden, I was at WestminsterCollege in 1995 briefly for a year, as a mature student. Never did qualify, but still have a passionate interest in food. Did you have the fab Mr Brito? Is it the same college in South London you went to or another one. You have a terrific blog and should try and get published. I can see you making it big time ! Next weekend I am doing a Moroccan inspired BBQ for my daughter's 10th birthday. Tonight I am cooking chili verde, but had to use green tomatoes as I couldn't find any tomatillos.see my foodfile under: ferretneckcancer8 on

Cheers Sue Kotecha

Trig said...

William - I wouldn't quite go that far...
Lizzie - it was just poetic licence, not an attack on South London.
Sue - I like your photos on Flickr. I have my own Flickr page which you can find under "aidanbrooks". I took my course at the Hospitality Centre, Vincent Square in Victoria.

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