Without wanting to brag (much) I’m off to the Big Apple next month, and The Crystal Palace Market Place certainly has a New York brasserie vibe about it.
Tiles, wood clad walls, exposed Edison bulbs – it’s stylish yet relaxed at the same time. In the toilets, audiobooks play through the walls as you powder your nose. Sweet pots of flowers sit on each table to soften the largely industrial vibe. No disrespect to my beloved Crystopolis, but here you really don’t feel like you’re in South East London. My friend commented that the interior reminded her of the Ivy Market Grill – a comparison the owners I think should be pleased with.
The venue (and evening) is split into two – so we’ll deal with the restaurant first.
This is a review I’ve pre-arranged so I am expected, but I’ve eaten here a few times before (albeit a few years ago) so I’ll take those visits into account as well.
The first thing we notice on arrival is the life-giving air con which revives us after an inferno like bus ride from Covent Garden. An icy fish counter sits next to the open kitchen so you can see that everything is absolutely fresh. An inviting bar sits in the middle of the restaurant which despite being busy feels spacious rather than cramped.
Before I have made myself known as the rookie critic, we are shown to our table and seated by a lovely front of house lady who looks after us superbly along with her team for the rest of the evening. We’re brought some cucumber infused water, on their suggestion order a delicious bottle of Picpoul (fave) and get down to the serious business of food ordering.
Things are straightforward here – excellent quality meat and fish cooked simply with a choice of sides and sauces. It’s a good test of a restaurant to be able to produce something delicious from a few simple ingredients.
To start we choose a charcuterie board consisting of four different meats including a pistachio saucisson , cornichons, chutney and toasted baguette. Super tasty, not too huge and well presented. For no reason other than greed, we also order some salted edamame beans which were good to nibble on as we chatted.
For the main event I go for Hampshire rainbow trout with new potatoes, and my friend lemon sole with chips (and homemade ketchup). All mains come with a simple house salad which was tasty and nicely dressed. The proteins are cooked on a josper grill (a cooking method I’m encountering more frequently) which provides a lovely barbecue flavour to an already delicious fish. My friend is extremely happy with her choice too. A couple next to us are tackling an amazing looking seafood platter, and a group behind us some stonking looking burgers. Simplicity is key here and it really pays off.
We’ve paid £26 each (without wine) which considering the quality and presentation feels pretty good to me. Yes there are cheaper options locally, but having payed a little bit more you certainly get the quality, provenance and extra touches that are on offer here. I think we should all try and eat locally where we can, or at least know where our food comes from so here you can do just that.
Brunch here is pretty good too, so if you’re seeking some classy dining and don’t want to schlep up to the West End (or New York) this could be your answer.
Wine and Oyster Bar – Crystal Palace
Having dropped a fair amount of dinner on my maxi dress, I move next door with dwindling sophistication. We’re greeted by owner Fabien and barman Manny, who’ve become familiar faces to me over the last few months.
Since opening in May I’ve visited here a number of times. The bar has hit the spot on several occasions providing the perfect place for a girls catch up, a date and large gathering of friends.
Crystal Palace is awash with great pubs and restaurants but a wine bar we didn’t have.
The bar sits on the site of a sadly short-lived butchers and fishmongers, but many features remain including an enormous butchers block table. The decor mirrors that of next door – bright, airy – heavy on the tiles with a great full length table that seats at least ten. You’ll find an oyster bar too, where you can sit and enjoy some of Northern Ireland’s finest shellfish washed down with a glass of champagne if you’re feeling fancy.
We start with a cocktail – Manny recommending one each based on our preferences. I go for a Palace Elder – Hendricks gin, elderflower liqueur, mint and cucumber. On a balmy night like this one, it’s perfect. My friend who prefers the sweet stuff chooses a Vin et Framboise – sauvignon blanc, apricot brandy, vodka and raspberries. Both are bloody lovely and are made with care and great attention to detail. We feel like we’re on holiday so remind ourselves we do actually have work the next day.
A French sommelier with 20 years experience Jean Louis Naveilhan has designed the wine list – yes there are plenty from just across the channel but also Chile, South Africa, New Zealand and Italy. There’s champagne and prosecco too – or as I heard it called the other day ‘wine with holes’.
In the name of research we choose a cheese board to share after deliberately avoiding dessert earlier. Fabien’s cheeses come from The French Comte – his own stall at Borough Marche. Like fussy children we ask for no blue cheese, and minutes later we are presented with four beauties from the adjoining cheese room, including St Vernier, a soft cheese that has been bathed in wine. Yes please. Served with two chutneys and some delicious crackers this was a perfect end to the evening. There’s also top quality charcuterie boards, bread and olives on offer to accompany whatever you’re drinking.
I nip to the ladies and come back to find a chocolate board has appeared – four dainty chocolates from local chocolatiers Blowing Dandelion. Beaten by over-consumption our chocs are kindly boxed up ready for us to roll home.
Feeling somewhat giddy, we leave after a really a fantastic evening from start to finish, and are delighted that this local gem is right on our doorstep.
The bar is open Thursday to Sunday with some brilliant (dangerous) happy hour deals offering 50% off. There’s also live music on certain nights which I’ve yet to experience.
Merci Fabien and team – Crystal Palace is lucky to have you!