07 August 2017

  • reviewer's rating :
summary : A little sliver of Lyon, tucked into Patpong, unchanged since it opened in 1996, serving hearty traditional French food and with owner Serge as a genial host.

About: The cardboard cut-out of a chef standing in the alley has become as familiar as the beer bars, go-go bars, pubs and market stalls of the Patpong village, and indeed it has been twenty-one years since Le Bouchon opened for business. Owner Serge is from Lyon, and the tiny restaurant is exactly what you would expect to find in the back streets of his home city. Crammed into this single shophouse space are twenty-two table seats, and another seven at the bar. The miniature kitchen, visible through a hatch at the back of the restaurant, produces traditional French food with an authenticity that ensures a large number of the clientele are French. In the midst of it all is Serge, himself a Patpong landmark, a friend to every customer.

Décor: There are actually a couple of tables outside, from which it is possible to Patpong-watch, but the table-space is tiny and best suited to drinking. Through the green door you go, and every inch (sorry, centimetre) of the interior has been used, with closely spaced tables, just enough elbow-room at the bar seating, a colourful clutter of bottles behind the bar, the walls hung with ancient pictures and magazine articles that have probably been there since the place opened, because nothing has changed over the years; not even Serge himself, who appears to be timeless.

Menu: There is no printed menu, everything being listed on two whiteboards that are handed to diners to prop against the wall and examine. The listing does change, depending on market availability and kitchen inspiration, but in its essence it remains the same. We started with a bowl of delicately sweet baby clams (260 baht), and then went on to a richly flavoured crab timbale (290 baht), the crabmeat prepared as a creamy soufflé in a vermouth sauce. A terrine of duck liver (390 baht) had a good, rustic roughness and was ringed with a rind of duck fat. Lamb fillet was prepared with rosemary sauce (820 baht) and served with a plump stuffed tomato. Boiled beef shank (590 baht) was served with a jar of sea salt, and the rough little rocks piled in a heap on the side of the plate added an intriguing bitter-sweetness.

Evaluation: Despite its location in the Patpong madness, there remains a secret quality about Le Bouchon, because this is the last place you would expect to find a totally, totally French restaurant. Prices are very reasonable indeed, especially when considering that items such as beef and duck, which can be obtained locally, are imported to ensure the correct quality. Everyone should visit Le Bouchon once, although they would find that once is not enough. Meanwhile, as you read this, the restaurant is celebrating its twenty-first birthday. Here’s to the next twenty-one years.