In France, a patisserie often has a café attached to it. This is a natural evolution given the high quality of produce that is manufactured day in day out by the combination of men with flour covering all of their clothes and the waspish, sclerotic women whose entire life essence seems to have been poured into the tartiflettes and pain au chocolat that line the display shelves.
The reasoning is that if the food is good enough to take away, it is good enough to be eaten on the premises. This is the mix that Apostrophe is hoping will translate into the heart of the refurbished Brunswick Centre.
The interior of the premises wisely stays clear of attempting an ersatz rendition of a Left Bank bakery. There are no varnished ficelles or stale baguettes or jilted mistresses to be found, although the Gallic origins were betrayed by a quotation lining the walls. It is a promise or a mission statement to get into the ‘interior of food’ and to penetrate deep into the notion of a culinary experience. Although I was able to translate all the words and could understand them by themselves, I had no idea how they all fitted together.
However, this profundity was a little at odds with the soup of the day, free-range chicken and vegetable. Although the flavour was sturdy, it lacked potency. It was also a little difficult to get to grips with given the long, unbroken green stalks, which were a little off-putting for something that is meant to have a mostly liquid constituency. But whilst it was not the most promising of starts, credit should be given for the generous allocation of chicken pieces.
Things picked up with the main course and there seemed to be a greater confidence when dealing with traditionally French produce. The toasted Alsace sandwich was very good with pastrami, emmental, mustard and sauerkraut, a nod to its Teutonic proximity, all combining well to produce a juicy and filling sandwich. Again, when straying away from French food, the standard falters slightly. The chicken Caesar salad contained all the right ingredients of smoked chicken, parmesan, cherry tomatoes, croutons and romaine lettuce but failed to deliver in total.
However, what the French do better than any other race is their pastries and the meal was finished off with an exquisite almond croissant. Praise should also go to the variety of juices on offer, which are made on the day and include beetroot and carrot juice along with the more established fruit juices such as pear and apple. The prices are reasonable for the food and a very filling meal can be had for under a tenner.
Overall the meal was enjoyable although there is the sense that Apostrophe does not know what it really is yet. Is it a patisserie offering food that you would expect in a café or is it a café trying to incorporate traditional French fare? It is impossible to say, although it is telling that Apostrophe hits its high points when focusing on typically French food.