As south west London favourite Gazette brasserie celebrates its 10th anniversary, SW Resident food columnist Sudi Piggot finds out why Balham provided the perfect launchpad for their ever-expanding empire
It was in my DNA to love food,’ explains Pascal Even proudly, who took over the cooking in his family at just 10 years old, speaking to me as he and Walter Lecoq celebrate the 10th anniversary of their south London restaurant empire, Gazette. He had a formidable classical training in Paris working with iconic Michelin star chefs including Michel Rostang before coming to work in London.
‘I believe cooking is like cycling, you learn it once and it stays with you forever. It was a tough training, almost like being in a military academy. I learnt to always think seasonally and to never stop creating. Today, at Gazette, I like to surprise customers by using ingredients they may not be familiar with, like chervil root from Brittany which is nutty and sweet.’
Lecoq, who hails from Pas du Calais, was one of nine children and always liked organizing and preparing meals too. He had a similarly illustrious training working with the legendary Alain Ducasse, first in Monaco and then in many of his restaurants in Paris, New York and Mauritius.
From the start, we wanted to make Gazette Brasserie really convivial and like a mini France
‘I learnt with Ducasse to always be demanding of oneself and take things to an extra level,’ he says. In London, he has worked with a number of top chefs including Richard Corrigan.
Even and Lecoq met through the French restaurant community, and decided they wanted to work together. Their first project 11 years ago was very modest – a crêpe stall at the short-lived Hildreth Street Market. Initially, they went after the property that is now M1lk, and then Pascal found the Battersea site by the river and they agreed it had huge potential – the rest is history.
‘From the start, we wanted to make it really convivial and like a mini France,’ says Lecoq. ‘Customers are very happy to see what they would eat in France on the menu and many are die-hard regulars. That’s what really matters to us.’
‘We never look for the easy way,’ Even continues with huge pride. ‘For example, our steak frites are made with impeccably bred Irish 30 day aged beef, and our frites are double cooked. We make our béarnaise daily. All our terrines are made here too.’
For their second restaurant the two wanted to return to Balham, as they like its neighbourhood feel. They opened on Ramsden Road before taking over a tired pub with a much larger, 100 seat capacity on the high road. Putney followed swiftly after, and Bellevue is their newest project, with a more of a restaurant than a brasserie vibe.
Delectable dishes include scallops with anchovy croutons, mushroom velouté and grilled mackerel, capers and artichokes. The set lunch is a snip at £11. The building has been beautifully restored, making the most of its conservatory roof and terrace filled with their characteristic mix of unusual and gorgeous bottles, decanters, ceramics and books.
‘We like to keep the customer entertained with plenty to look at.’
Both are longtime locals. Lecoq still lives in Streatham and recommends Manor Arms and Slurp for a great Thai, whilst his favourite French escape is South East France for sunny climate menus, the culinary links with North Africa, and its closeness to Italy. Even is now in Crystal Palace and can’t imagine living elsewhere, except his beloved Brittany.
And the next 10 years? They have a new concept in the pipeline – Gazette Petite – offering sandwiches, pastries and a daily dish all made on site. Their first branch is in Battersea’s Plantation Wharf and they are looking to expand both Petites and Gazette Brasseries further.
Meanwhile, Even sums up their mission: ‘To simply keep on bringing authentic yet inventive, affordable French food to SW.’ Vive La France!
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