Eastside Inn Bistrot: the love of French cuisine

ON a Tuesday evening in January, four bloggers decided to meet up after having spoken to each other for ages on Twitter. Social media is a great tool to get in touch with people who share  the same passion but it happens to be more media than social sometimes. Well, not social the way the French people hear it (nothing better than a glass of wine and some charcuterie to make friends!).

Considering this need to socialise, Laissezfare, LondonEater, The Catty Life and I opted for a place where the food would make everybody happy: The Eastside Inn Bistrot, known for its remarkable… French cuisine cooked by Bjorn van der Horst.

With a Dutch father, a Spanish mother and a French passport, Bjorn has developed a strong love of all cuisines and believes that each region has a heritage worth preserving and honouring. At Eastside Inn, his wife, Justine, and him chose to do French regional dishes as they represent the base of their classic repertoire as cooks.

When you step into the Eastside Inn Bistrot, the first thing you notice is the open kitchen in the middle of the restaurant where the customers have a direct view on the staff cooking.

It is important for us to be directly in touch with our customers. It creates an intimate relationship between the room and the kitchen and they exactly see what is going on. There is no cheating and the team works in a much calmer atmosphere.” Well thought!

Going to a French restaurant in London is like being back home for an evening and, after a quick look at the menu, I blessed Bjorn and his wife to have put my favourite dishes on the menu. Mom, home wasn’t so far that night!

The philosophy at Eastside Inn is that you are our guest. Justine’s favourite dish in the whole world is onion soup, so why not share it with every one of our guests. The rabbit was chosen as they are in season now and the nature of a “Plat en sauce” is to provide comfort in these cold winter days and nights; so perfect for this time of year.”

The Juliette’s favourite onion soup was served with Beaufort cheese and country toast. Mainly caramelized onions covered in beef stock with the addition of some white wine and a touch of salt, the broth is covered with stale bread and grated hard mountain cheese – Gruyere, Beaufort and Cantal – the better quality the better the soup. The soup is then placed under the grill until the cheese is bubbling

This rich and intense onion soup was certainly the best I had ever had, perfectly balanced between the amount of onions, cheese and bread. Combined, it created a very nice texture enhanced with rich flavours. A truly comforting winter dish.

“The onion soup, otherwise known as “Gratinee a l’oignon” is a typical dish from Savoie the alpine region of France but has over the years found its way into the Parisian Brasserie Classic repertoire and is today a staple item on most French restaurant menus around the world. Back in the day it was an inexpensive way to have a hearty meal when, stuck up in the mountains, and all one had was some stale bread, onions – which hold for a long time – a bone for stock, some water and a hard mountain cheese.”

Then came my personal absolute favourite French dish which I always ask my mom to cook every time I go back home: Braised rabbit, tagliatelle and mustard sauce.

The dish consisted of pieces of rabbit seared off and braised in white wine and chicken stock with a few aromats, slowly simmered until the rabbit meat falls off the bone. The rabbit is then removed from the liquid which is reduced to concentrate the flavours and finished with cream and mustard, all of which is served with tagliatelle.

The rabbit was perfectly cooked and very tender. The sauce was rich and intense and most probably the winner of the dish. The rabbit was served with the right amount of tagliatelle, cooked all’dente but already starting to absorb the sauce. Un delice!

Braised rabbit à la moutarde is a classic dish from the “Cuisine Bourgeoise” repertoire which consists of  all “plats en Sauce” so dear to French food lovers and to the heritage of the Cuisine. This type of dish can be left on the stove top simmering and give time to the hostess or host to be with their guests and dish out a great meal with minimum effort.

“My grandmother used make Rabbit a lot as it is a very common product in Spanish culture and it was and still is quite cheap. I’ve always loved creamed sauces even though today it seems to be very un-PC to be making cream sauces. I’ve decided to go against the trend and declare that this is part of the French repertoire and in the winter you need a bit of fat in your diet so…..there.”

The Grand Marnier soufflé served with milk chocolate ice cream was an experience in itself. The waiter told us to include the ice cream ball in the soufflé and the combination worked very well. The soufflé was very tasty and rich while the ice-cream, which the waiter suggested would work wonders, softened the strong Grand Marnier flavour perfectly!

And for the future? “If all goes well, I would love to have other restaurants that are specialised in other regional cuisines  such as Asian, Tuscan, Roman, Basque, Lebanese etc.”

Thank you Bjorn for this fantastic French treat, I will be back!

Eastside Inn
40 St John Street
London, EC1M 4AY
020 7490 9240

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22 thoughts on “Eastside Inn Bistrot: the love of French cuisine

  1. The Eastside Inn is one of the many jewels in Clerkenwell’s culinary crown now and although it has stiff competition, it’s still one of the brightest and best.

    Everything here is cooked with great care and attention and you captured the spirit of the food perfectly. What’s also refreshing about EIB is the space you get when you’re sat down.

  2. I love this place. The bistro is also my favourite casual dining at the moment. I have tried the same 3 dishes you had and couldn’t fault them. I think the rabbit is now replaced with braised veal shank, which I can’t wait to try. Ps. well done on Instant Restaurant!

  3. That was a lovely night and I was so glad to have met you. Well, I’ve seen you countless times now but really, thanks Twitter for hooking us up. By the way, I’ve got to go back for the rabbit!

  4. Wow wow love the photos and the menu choices – I’ve lived in France before but never had the rabbit dish, but man it looks good! Eastside Inn has been on my ever-growing list of places to try for a while, but I think you may have bumped it up to the top of the list!

    Sasha @ The Happiness Project London

  5. Met Catty yesterday @ Koba and she told us about this wonderful meal you shared. I loved your pictures and description of the dishes; French and Japanese are my favourite cuisines, I can’t wait to try this place now.

    • Thanks for passing by! Catty and I really had a great time there and I looking forward to going back again. Koba is also on my wishlist list and I will definitely go there soon.
      Looking forward to meeting you at the Pho event!

  6. Pingback: Goodbye Eastside Inn « The grub worm

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