Alice-like, six of us fell through the door of Gastro on Saturday night and found ourselves in a different world. These kind of restaurants are often described as being like a piece of France, but they usually mean ‘a piece of France in xxxxx’ (insert suitable British location, such as Guildford).
Here, it really felt as if we should have shown our passports at the door. All the staff were French, every surface was made of worn dark wood, the menu was spot on. Bowls of moules marinieres were apparently perfect (not my thing), plates of charcuterie with silky rillettes and salad covered in mustardy vinaigrette were generous (definitely my thing). I didn’t leave enough space for my lamb shank, which was poor planning. The Crozes-Hermitage was good value and perfectly tarry and red-fruity. Two-thirds of the other audible customers were French. Yet neither my brother nor I felt that we had to speak French to get good service – the staff were efficient and unobtrusive and warm without being chatty, like in a fancy restaurant, which this most certainly is not. When one of our English friends asked for une fourchette, the waiter smiled with pleasure at his effort, not with disdain. A happy find.