Bandol, Hollywood Road, Chelsea

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My dearest husband contracted near-deadly man-flu about 10 days ago following a fairly booze heavy weekend on the Isle of Wight. He consequently was unable to taste anything, smell anything and you could have probably heard his snoring from the top of the Shard. And what did I, his loving and caring wife do about it….? Very little I’m afraid. I will cook comfort food, buy Vicks Vapor and Olbas Oil by the bucket load, but I’m just not very good at the sympathy side of it. I reached breaking point on about Wednesday when I arrived home rather late to walk into the bedroom and have my eyes start streaming from the over-use of Olbas oil that he couldn’t smell apparently. It probably wasn’t the ideal moment to demand a romantic dinner two days later, just the two of us. Oh and I wanted it to be a surprise and it be somewhere we haven’t been before. Oh what a joy I must be to be married to.

After a couple of drinkies soaking up the Uber-Raaa, mega-posh bants outside the Hollywood Arms we popped across the road to Bandol. I LOVE the décor of this place. It’s modern but without the sharp edges that make the seats ridiculous to actually sit on and the lighting was perfect for a romantic dinner, but rubbish for a food blogger who relies on her IPhone for photos. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Instead of a starter and main we decided to go for several small plates. We ordered five dishes, and then a light main course to share. The salt cod croquettes with shaved fennel arrived first and were perfect, crispy on the outside, soft and rich in the middle and they hadn’t scrimped on the salt cod by adding too much potato. I can’t remember what order everything came in, but we had a yellowtail carpaccio which was slightly ceviche like with a citrus dressing, but delicious. Crab salad arrived, it’s hard to go wrong with this; well seasoned and a good sized portion, I am totally spoiled by the crab salad we have at work which is impossible to beat as far as I am concerned, but this was still lush. The steak tartare was great– I love it when it’s quite roughly cut and the bread you get has a bit of char on it – char and raw beef are heavenly in my book. Is that weird?
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Our last small plate to arrive was the marinated courgette salad, which was so super lemony and tangy we couldn’t finish it let alone taste the feta or the actual courgettes. I know courgettes are often vehicles for flavour as they don’t have a hugely strong flavour when raw, but this took it to the extreme. So we had to order something else to ensure we didn’t finish on this sour note… Turns out the extra dish we ordered was the best thing we ate. The asparagus ravioli were utterly gorgeous sitting in a small rich puddle of brunoise vegetable sauce and a couple of dollops of ricotta. If we hadn’t been making sure we could walk ourselves out of the restaurant instead of being rolled out we would have ordered another portion.

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A quick mention for the wine list, for a French wine addict like me, it is a wonderful list. We had a fantastic value (for Chelsea) bottle of Puilly Fuisse 2012 for £48. It went with almost everything, you can probably which dish was the exception.

So despite being on death’s door two days before, Jim pulled it out of the bag and we had such a lovely evening. A surprise. Somewhere we haven’t been. Great food and the staff were really superb. Love the décor, the people watching was excellent and if you are a Chelsea local yummy mummy the small dishes will make the perfect light lunch before you head towards but not actually to the gym in your sports kit that you don’t actually do any sports in. Totes great yaah?

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