Cassis Bistro was meant to be firmly French when it was launched. But, with the recent appointment of chef Massimiliano Blasone (long name innit?), formerly of Michelin-starred Aspley’s at The Lanesborough Hotel, the cuisine has moved a little eastward, along the Mediterranean coast, to Italy. While there wasn’t much to write home about the setting itself – an under-lit, metallic-looking room with art pieces by Julian Opie’s – much should be said for those who drink – the bar ran all-day “happy hours” (50% off). The menu offering both a la carte (approx £15 for starters and £23-25 for mains) and tasting (£50 for 5 courses; £65 for 7) sounded banal. The array of dishes from my 7-course tasting menu proved otherwise.
Sea Bass Tartare was a dish of acutely seasoned freshness. The chopped fish was subtly complemented by dimensions of herbs and acidity, from chive-y creme fraiche (I deduct), concentrated carrot jus to bitter confit lemon rinds. The sweet and nutty sesame wafer claimed the dish an inventive touch, reminding me of Thomas Keller’s cornet, and the crispy tapioca gave extra pleasure to the tongue. Foie Gras with Toasted Brioche did not wow as much. I enjoyed the fine quality of the velvety foie but the garnish of peach and chocolate soil did not carry enough strength to make an impact as a whole. More successful was Cod Brandade. De- and re-constructed, the brandade arrived crumbed – think “croquette” but with sandy crispy-ness instead of crust – and boast a fine balance of salted cod, confit and cream. The torn black olives were bombs of taste and I liked the gentle piquant finish from cayenne pepper. That said, it could do with more texture contrast. Pumpkin Tortellini was incredibly DELICIOUS. The pasta casing was precisely boiled for an al-dente effect; the pumpkin cream within burst sweet, earthy richness; the tender pumpkin batons contrasted brilliantly with crunchy toasted almond slices; the parmesan emulsion oozed comfort; the meaty jus finished the dish off with wine-reduced acidity. SO BLOODY GOOD!! Halibut with Greens did maintain such momentum. The prime quality fish creatively paired with pumpkin puree was beautifully cooked; the topping of sandy crumbs left the fish with a pleasant, buttery note. That said, I found the biteful garnish of sliced mange tout, green beans and pea leaves a little too intrusive. Fewer pieces would make the fish stand out more. Partridge with Mustard Sauce did not deliver as much as it could. While I liked the boozy sauce and the well cooked girolles, the partridge (breasts, specifically) was overcooked and a little tough. Miniature Rum Baba was served with frothy, egg-y sabayon. The alcoholic baba was airy and with a distinct note of orange glazing. Just. Wonderful. Chocolate “with whisky ice cream” tasted more nutty than “whisky”. The fantastically crunchy cap led way to smoother layers and a biscuit-y base. It somehow made me think of this as a refined version of Magnum Ice Cream <3 <3 <3
In a few more badly formed sentences..
Cassis Bistro is non-conformist and full of promises. High quality ingredients. Thoughtful and inventive departure from the Italian tradition. Successfully un-fussed. I will eat there again soon, most certainly!
232-236 Brompton Road
Tel. 020 7581 1101