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Friday, 29 October 2010

Le Bistrot at L'Institut Francais , South Kensington

In an area not blessed with great hang-outs, Le Bistrot - the bar/ cafe at this cinema/ library/ cultural centre - is open to even les rosbifs. In the heart of Little Paris (i.e. South Kensington ) where shop keepers routinely address you in French and stare uncomprehendingly when you reply in English, this is something of a find. Recently reconfigured in nouvelle vague black and white, it's the kind of smart, middle class space demanded by the sort of bon chic, bon genre bitches who always appear immaculate, head to toe in Dior, on the beach in Sainte Maxime while you look like a dishevelled pink shrimp, colour matched to a swimming costume that fitted when you bought it in 2005.  A central self-service buffet boasts fifteen different salads, traiteur tasties, charcuterie, quiches, soups, patisseries and viennoiseries charged at £4.95, £8 or £10 according to plate size. To drink, there’s a selection of by-the-glass wine from Pays d’Oc (£4) to superior Chablis (£10); Kronenbourg and Peroni and a selection of spirits and aperitifs that, naturellement, includes the fuel on which all Provence runs, Ricard. Le bistrot opens at 11 am for strong cafĂ© and stays open until 8.30 pm by which time, it’s assumed debate and discussion surrounding matters existential will be moved on elsewhere. The bar monsieur was atypically charming for a grenouille but his pantalon looked like une petite visite to the nettoyage a sec shop was long overdue. Les Frenchies, superchic? Pas toujours!