Ben and I had been strolling through cyberspace when suddenly the offer of a table at a restaurant ambushed us. Yes, it was, The Reindeer, a guerrilla restaurant. That is to say, somewhere temporary, set up in a non-permanent location. The restaurant as event. It's arrival in town had been so stealthy that we hadn't noticed it. Luckily our sharp eyed fellow gastronaut, Silverbrow, had been more alert and had made a booking for himself. When it turned out he couldn't go we grabbed the opportunity of the table. On Monday, Harry and I set out on our mission through the jungle of Bangla Town. On the corner of Fournier Street and Brick Lane we halted and searched for clues . . . ah, is that a cut out Reindeer template on a coat rack, in a car park? We peered tentatively round the corner. "Hello, are you here for the theatre?". We were there for the restaurant. "Ah, go and see the man in the top hat". So far, so Blade Runner (lots of Neon-Noir sense), so Harry Potter.
We were shown upstairs into a winter wonderland, part kitsch, part smart, very fashionable. After a Christmas tree like construction there are two chalets, one selling hampers and other Christmassy things and one for your coats. I swear I saw elfs' hats in the cloak-chalet. It's all quite funny and quite stylish. We were shown to a table in the bar area and availed ourselves of some freebie, pear, blackcurrant and cardomom bellinis, very nice, if a bit sweet. Hmmm . . . a mulled bellini sort of. Ben and Alice arrived, they'd had a similar adventure getting here. Ben tucked into a black cherry and port Manhattan. Hmmm . . . a mulled Manhattan, sort of. Are we detecting a theme here? Fake reindeer antler chandeliers twinkled above. Michael Jackson's 'Beat it' on a grand piano, tinkled beside us. Ah yes, not just kitsch . . . camp. What else would expect from Bistrotheque, with its tranny lip-sync cabaret evenings? Surely the pies would be mincing later.
The food is anything but camp. It's Bistrotheque does Christmas, i.e. bistro style classic dishes but with a hearty yuletide theme. In fact, you could construct a number of very good Christmas lunches from the menu. Starters: Ben opted for game pie, Alice went for seared scallops, Harry had smoked salmon. I had a delicious celeriac and black truffle soup. The truffles were proper T.Melanasporum Winter truffles, but I still felt getting only two shavings was rather Scrooge like, especially at £9 for the bowl. Ben seemed very pleased with his game pie. The speed of service was astonishing, the first dish almost arriving while the last person was putting in their order. We speculated that they may be using Santa present delivery methods here. By this time we were tucking into a bottle of Languedoc Viognier which hit the spot nicely.
Main courses were even more festive for Ben and Harry who both had goose breast with leeks, prunes, lardons and cranberry sauce. Ben asked for his goose cooked at the chef's judgement but was then disappointed at its toughness. Alice's vegetable pithivier came with Camembert, sprout tops and and chestnuts. I had a simpler dish of roast guinea fowl with with figs and parsnip mash. The figs turned out to be more of a sauce, but that was fine. The full legs of the bird were served and they were well roasted with the meat succulent and coming off the bone easily. A Languedoc Minervois served us well with these hearty dishes.
As it should be at a Christmas meal, everyone was stuffed. I just had to try a dessert of whipped brie, nice and creamy, but couldn't quite finish it. Ben had a fruit salad with mojito sorbet and even that seemed mountainous. All we needed now were Christmas Crackers, but the Pop magazine crackers were £10 a pop.
So how does it compare to Bistrotheque? Certainly the dishes have been chosen for the ability to simplify their last minute assembly, but in essence the cooking is the same. Reliable, tasty, with well-sourced ingredients. No fireworks . . . but you don't normally have those at Christmas . . . so in a sense this style of cookery is even more suitable for this ultra-seasonal type of enterprise.
I do hope they come back next year, one can think of all sorts of design additions - an ice bar? A real reindeer or two? An artificial ski slope? An ice rink? More than this I hope that there are more guerrilla dining experiences to be had in London next year. Just imagine a Troisgros pavilion in Regents Park! A Blumenthal Exploratorium at the Science Museum! Fingers crossed . . .
Well, as I mentioned, The Reindeer is temporary, last orders on 23rd December, and up until then they're fully booked. The service is so sharp about a third of the restaurant was empty by about half way through our meal . . . so maybe there's a small chance of trying it out?