On a Sunday evening, when I once more could not be assed to cook for my girlfriend, I decided to treat her to a meal a a little joint I know on Torstrasse. Once a fastfood place, Bandol has kept many of the fixtures and fittings of its former incarnation, and looks a little bit like the kebab (or hamburger) joint that it once was.
One you walk in there is the normal glass case, but instead of being filled with salad items for your döner, it houses wagu beef and other mise en place for the evening. The walls are painted black and have the evening menu written up there, and above is the only decoration in the whole restaurant – old wooden fridges hanging from the ceiling, like the ones you’ve seen in the old movies.
The one problem with handwritten, chalkboard menus is that if the writer does not have a steady hand, it can be a little bit difficult to work out what there is to eat. So I was pleased to be handed a printed menu, but this was countered by the fact that it was printed in the same handwriting as on the walls…whoever that person is, I can only presume they were a doctor in a former life.
Between us we finally worked out what was on offer, and the apperizers ranged from winter salad with wild boar to oyters, via foie gras and snails. Now, as a diciple of Anthony Bourdain I am commited to try pretty much anything once, but my girl was not in an adventurous mood so we settled for the winter salad with wild boar and cranberries.
When it arrived, the meat and the salad were separate, and the wild boar was surrounded in a dough that tasted a little bit like Christmas stollen. Apart from this, the flavour was surprisingly muted, although the cranberry sauce helped. As for the winter salad I was extremely impressed by the chop-chop work that went into the apples and beets.
Before our main course arrived we were served our amus bouche, which was a hot soup of leek and potatoes with two neatly placed dollops of olive oil. Our server told us it was a present…but I am wise to these things by now, and know that everyone gets this “present” in order to feel special. And if everyone gets it, then its no so special anymore now is it?
From our seat we could see into the open kitchen, and at one point we noticed the kitchen guys swinging into action, getting busy chopping and firing things off. A good sign, as it was clear that there was no re-heating going on, this was food cooked a la minute. I had ordered the Irish entrecote accompanied by vegetables and a potato gratin. My girlfriend had fish, served with some sort of julienned cabbage and fried blood in a sauce with white bubbles. Interesting.
The beef was good, but the fish had very little taste, although the fried blood tasted fine until my girlfriend told me what it was, causing my commitment to waver after a couple of mouthfuls. We ended the meal with creme brulee, accompanied by mandarins and cappucino. The mandarins were served in an orange reduction and combined perfectly with the creme brulee. Nice!
So what did I think about the whole experience? From an atmosphere point of view, I had a great time, and really felt for the time I was there that I was sitting in a small place down a sidestreet in Paris. The service however was not that informative, often bored, and more of a burden than a help. Not such a good sign. The food was generally good – although the fish was a bit plain – but the prices (main meals between €25 and €28) suggest that you should really be getting something spectacular. It may feel like Paris, but this is still Berlin baby.
Which got me to thinking that perhaps the reputation of the place, and the prices that go with it, are a little overblown. I would go again, but would stick to a drink and steak and not mess around with anything else. If you want a small and cozy spot for dinner, with a nice atmosphere, then Bandol is a good choice…but for the price the quality of the food and service does not let me rate it as highly recommended.
Bandol – The Low Down:
Where: Torstrasse 167 (UBhf Rosenthaler Platz)
Open: Daily from 1800 to 2300
Reservations: A must! There are generally two sittings, one at 1800 and one at 2100. Call ahead on 030 67 30 20 51
Prices: Starters (€12,50-€18,50), Mains (€25 and up), 4-course Set Menu (€48). NO CARDS ACCEPTED
Mr Goldman Rating (of 5): **