Sister restaurant to beloved Margaux in South Ken, recently opened Bandol takes its name from the wine-making region in South Eastern France. Focusing on Provencal and Niçoise cooking, Bandol aims to bring the warmth and sunshine of coastal France to a quiet semi-residential road in Chelsea.
The restaurant was conceived by Sylvia Kontek and Vittorio Monge, a married couple whose expertise seems to lie in recreating the Riviera in less than sun-drenched London. The cuisine is under the reigns of Zsolt Ferencz, formerly of Scott’s, and there’s no doubt the seafood expertise learnt there will have served him well when working on a southern French menu like Bandol’s. A quiet setting on Hollywood Road makes for a romantic spot with interiors that are all marble, copper, and rather industrial lighting – far from falling prey to becoming a French design pastiche, it’s glamorous but also relaxed enough to invoke a similar sense of the chilled out luxury the Riviera is so adept at.
The menu is divided into two sections; small plates that act as starters or are great for sharing, and larger plates that serve as main courses. We started with a trio of small plates to share, Black Ink Risotto was brilliantly executed and came with grilled squid. The octopus carpaccio is a revelation, it came with spring onion and chilli in a lemon dressing, and was the most butter soft I’ve ever had. These two dishes are probably the restaurant’s signature starters. We also had a perfectly adequate courgette and feta salad, my dining companion’s attempt at “being good”. Next we had the very tender Rack of Lamb and the Bandol Bouillabaisse, rich and deeply flavoured, it comes with red mullet, gurnard, prawns, and mussels. We finished up with a milk fondant that came with baby figs, a very summery finish to the meal.
Bandol is five minutes away from where I live, and it’s a very welcome addition to the restaurant rounds. I love neighbourhood restaurants like this; cosy and snug, as lovely for a midweek supper as a weekend treat, but with a quality of food good enough to pull in diners from much further afield.