There’s a cliché going that food from the South of France in some way captures the sunshine that the region is known for. And yet – made all the more stark by overcast London – it’s impossible not to mention the vibrancy of the cooking that’s happening at Bandol, the sister restaurant to Margaux in South Kensington.
This is a restaurant of lemon and lavender and fennel, of oven-melted tomatoes and heaps of seafood. Butterflied, marinated anchovies were a beautiful meal opener, followed by an even better carpaccio of octopus, which swam in floral olive oil. Squid ink risotto was black as the abyss and no less magnetic. Meat, largely absent from the sharing plates, made a welcome appearance in the mains (we picked every pink scrap off the lamb chops, and lusted over braised rabbit). Bandol’s staff is continental and warmly capable, especially when perusing the wine list to pluck just-so accompaniments for the many dishes.
Though the restaurant’s interior is neutral in palette and sharply chic (befitting of its Chelsea environs), a winking concession to that Provencal ambiance exists in the twining form of an olive tree, which stretches towards a skylight in the middle of the dining room. A bit of sunshine? Oh, go on.