Patron in Kentish town is a classic Cave à Manger – namely a little French bar serving quintessential French dishes. Perched in the heart of a thriving French neighbourhood, Patron is as romantic as they come. Think camembert fondue, wild mushrooms on toast and coq au vin – all enjoyed by diners in deep banquettes by candlelight with a carefully chosen selection of French wines.
Co-owner Jean-Francois Pioc took me to the kitchen when I arrived and immediately ordered me an onglet steak. He is very proud of the meat (which comes from Yorkshire) and he insisted I have my steak rare, as anything more would toughen it up. The reason for this is that the onglet is a cut of meat that sits close to the liver and kidneys and is extremely tender.
While I watched, a dish of snails appeared. I love snails and these were buttery and served with bread. They whetted my appetite even more. I felt guilty not being in the kitchen cooking but this day was all about learning to eat rather than cook.
Patron has only been around since April and the trio of chefs had the kitchen under complete control throughout service despite the rising head count in the dining room. Gabriel, the head chef, operated what he called a ‘respectable’ kitchen. The diners were close by and the chefs need to always keep their heads because of the natural ambience that comes with a neighbourhood bistro.
The onglet was served whole and was rare in the centre. I had never eaten onglet and was keen to find out more. The meat was soft-chewy and had a slight gaminess to it which was very appealing.
I spent the rest of the evening trying the rest of their small but perfectly executed menu, tasting a number of French wines, and basically being spoilt rotten. Sue me.