Simply delicious down on Le Petite Ferme
26 September, 2019 — By Tom Moggach
This French restaurant in Farringdon Road keeps the food simple and the prices low
EXMOUTH Market is always buzzing – a street in Clerkenwell jam-packed with restaurants, bars and street food. But most people overlook the treasures tucked around the corner.
La Petite Ferme (“The Little Farm”) is a cosy French place just moments away, at the top of Farringdon Road. It’s run by a young man from Paris called François Guerin, who’s carved out a niche since his move to London.
His place in Primrose Hill – La Ferme – has thrived since opening last year. I remember my visit for the two-track cooking: rustic French classics or the chef’s ambitious take on modern French cuisine. A quick Google search reveals the more elaborate food found favour. Current dishes include beetroot with buttermilk, angostura dressing and a savoury granola.
In contrast, La Petite Ferme in Farringdon Road keeps the food simple and prices low. Mains hover around £12; their market menu offers a two-course lunch deal for £15 or dinner for £18.
There’s the inevitable baked Camembert, beef bourguignon, moules marinière and crème brulée. Specialities include the pierrade: a hot stone grill inset into the wooden table. Using no oil and raw strips of meat or fish, this do-it-yourself style of cooking is fun and appeals to diners counting the calories.
Raclette, on the other hand, is about the unlimited melted cheese. Melt slices with a special gadget then anoint with charcuterie, potatoes and pickles. All you can eat for £27 per person.
We pitched up on a weekday evening, drawn in like moths to the warm low lighting.
The two adjoining rooms have been cleverly transformed with a shabby chic vibe.
There’s jazz on the sound system, tables of rough-hewn wood, mismatched chairs and thick coils of rope across the ceilings holding dangling lamp shades.
On one wall, a pair of reclaimed shutters frames four rows of clothesline, with wooden pegs holding vintage French labels peeled from bottles of Bordeaux or Eau de Noix.
I like any restaurant that does the basics well. Here, the bread is spot-on – piles of chopped baguette served in a wooden cheese crate with quality salted butter.
As a starter, our leek vinaigrette was a humdinger: slippery, unctuous, slow-cooked leeks bathed in a truffled vinaigrette then finished with macadamia nuts and slivers of Comté cheese.
A jumble of charcuterie, including fatty rillettes, was generous in size and served correctly at room temperature so the flavours really sing.
Tartiflette is a Savoyard dish you seldom find in the capital. Thin slices of potato and porky lardons are slow cooked with cream, onions and Reblochon cheese. Mine would have benefited from another five minutes in the oven.
A special of lamb shoulder was well-seasoned and tender, served with silky carrot mash. We finished with spiced poached figs and Chantilly cream.
La Petite Ferme offers few surprises or fireworks – but that’s its magnetic appeal. This restaurant excels when the gloomy nights set in.