It doesn’t matter how long you have lived in London, you can always find new areas that you never knew existed, places off your map in parts of town you rarely visit. Bistro Union is one such place, hidden away at the far end of Clapham Common, a short walk from Clapham South tube station and is the latest opening from Clapham legend Adam Byatt. By mid-evening the restaurant is full of professional young Claphamites – some enjoying the full menu, others just dropping in for drinks and bar snacks.
We started with smoked pigs cheeks and cheese and marmite straws while we checked out the menu – presented as a primary school exercise book. The pigs cheeks are highly recommended – sliced wafer thin and served warm with toast, it’s a perfect ‘naughty but nice’ treat. The marmite straws? Well, you’ll either love them or hate them.
We went with the the beer and onion soup with welsh rarebit, and we’re glad we did. Made with craft beer from an independent brewer in Bristol, the beer adds a malty taste to the classic French-style soup. Irrespective of the temperature, you can’t go wrong with this soup. The salt beef with fried egg and piccalilli is beautifully presented in the frying pan presumably used to cook it, atop a wooden board with the handle wrapped in brown paper. As a homage to home-cooked comfort food, it’s perfect. Our guest, the daughter of a butcher, commends the salt beef as some of the best she has had. High praise indeed.
Mains do not disappoint either, the grilled quail is succulent and delicate and served with cauliflower and chickpeas. Naturally, it’s an effort to get the meat from the bones, but that’s quail for you. If someone could develop a boneless quail they’d be a millionaire. The steak and chips is a treat too, served on the rare side of medium rare unless requested otherwise, alongside mushroom ketchup, a delightfully original twist. The only drawback was that this particularly juicy cut is served on a flat board, meaning that meat juices were soon spilling onto the table. Desserts are beautiful too but unfortunately we could only room to share one, we opted for the Paris-Brest from the specials menu, a creamy pastry tart named after a stage of the Tour de France, we’re told.
Service is very friendly and well informed, with staff able to talk about the ingredients and their provenance, Bistro Union puts the ‘great’ in Great British food. How many more places like this hide away in London’s secret neighbourhoods we wonder…
40 Abbeville Road, SW4 9NG