Franck Raymond has left Covent Garden’s Mon Plaisir after ten years and struck-out solo south of the river. The food and service at Augustine Kitchen impress, but the restaurant needs a little polish to fulfill its potential.
A pencil sketch on the menu sets out their vision for the venue: a simple restaurant fronted by café-tables and neat topiary. It’s a nice concept, but one that would be easier to execute away from the traffic of Battersea Bridge Road. Inside, there’s little to distinguish the front bar area and dining room to the rear. There are nice touches like a blackboard wall and heavily laden wine racks, but unfortunately the space is dominated by inelegant wooden tables and padded leather chairs. You can’t help but feel they’ve done themselves a disservice by eschewing a stronger aesthetic.
That said, there’s plenty to like here: the restaurant is sweetly named after Franck’s grandmother, Augustine, and the front of house team are intelligent, friendly and clued-up on the menu. If the key to running a successful neighbourhood restaurant lies in the welcome, they have the local market sewn up. Then there’s Franck himself, head chef at Mon Plaisir for a decade, now once again at helm of his own place and full of ideas for cookery classes and getting to know the regulars.
The menu is based around the cuisine of his hometown, Evian, which is shoehorned up against the Swiss border in the southeast of France. His cooking is elegant and modern – an odd juxtaposition to the slightly clunky decor. A two-course set menu will set you back £19.50, starters go for around £5–£8 and most mains are close to the £15 mark.
Things start well with a regional specialty: Lake Geneva’s fera fish, here served on toast with a cucumber salad and crème fraîche. The meat is translucent with hints of pink; you’d be forgiven for thinking it was ceviche at a glance but it’s actually delicately smoked. The lobster soup – served in a mini ironware dish – is more powerful, with a hint of chili to keep your tastebuds on their toes.
Of the beautifully presented mains, pink and plump portions of roast duck breast are enlivened by the classic tastes of pear poached in red wine, port and cinnamon while an artistic plate of pan-fried sea trout mixes the contrasting textures of crisp skin, potato velouté and a silky watercress sabayon.
Puddings inject a sense of fun. Expect their excellent dark chocolate mousse to pop up on Vine soon: it’s encased within a thin chocolate sphere which melts under a caramel sauce poured at the table.
Wines are spot on for their target market. Try the Ugni Blanc (500ml carafe £12.75), a grape used in Cognac and Armagnac, but here light, citrusy and with a hint of the characteristic quince aroma. Other bottles are mostly French and Spanish, with a dry Vouvray, and Catalonian Garnacha some of the offerings under £35. A bit more will buy you classics such as Sancerre and Crozes Hermitage. The best stuff is off the menu: a glass of Crèmant de Loire with liqueur de prunelle or a splash of the family-made Braastad VSOP Cognac.
The Last Word
Augustine Kitchen promises to be an excellent local restaurant. Buck-up, Battersea: it’s only a matter of time before Franck settles in down south.