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»Tucked down a cobbled little alley, off an attractive square, in a surprisingly quiet part of Finsbury, lies Le Café Du Marché – a cracking little French restaurant.

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It’s been around since 1987 but because of its secluded – though very attractive – location, the manager bemoaned to us ‘‘no one knows we are here’’.

Well, it was certainly new to me, but the place seemed pretty full when we turned up on a Wednesday night. And with good reason – the decor is lovely, lots of bare brick work and rustic wall hangings and ornaments – and the place has a nice cosy feel. Another great touch is the live band – the two-piece sauntering through jazz standards with Gallic flair created a seductive mood.

We nestled in our corner table and pondered the menu – mainly provincial French dishes, but with the odd modern twist.

We had the soup de jour – spinach, leek and Stilton – which was creamy and mouth-watering, and the lamb’s tongue, which had a slightly fatty texture but was very pleasant with the sauce gribiche.

Restaurant info:

Le Cafe Du Marche

22 Charterhouse Square

EC1M 6DX

Tube: Barbican/Farringdon

Tel: 020 7608 1609

Web: www.cafedumarche.co.uk

Mains: 2 course £28.50, 3 for £34.85

Wine: from £19.95 a bottle

Children welcome: Yes

Disabled access: No

I faced a genuine dilemma choosing a main course, eyeing up the chicken fricassee and confit duck leg, but on our friendly waitress’s suggestion we went for the magnificent côte de boeuf. An awe-inspiring cut of meat, cooked beautifully rare with a slightly charred exterior adding intrigue to the flavour, every bite was an absolute treat. It came on a grand wooden board with a pot of tangy Béarnaise, a hint of rocket, and of course French fries. We also had a couple of sides – wilted spinach and carrots with shallots – which were both good.

It would have been a travesty not to look at the cheeses, in which our French cousins traditionally excel. We managed a sharp, potent Camembert and a brutally strong epoisses which were fantastic, and combined delightfully with our juicy South African Syrah.

Eating at Café Du Marche really is a joy and they seem to epitomise the best parts of French cuisine – an emphasis on quality ingredients and strong flavours without being pretentious or exclusive.

And with a prix fixe of less than £30 for two courses and menu changes every five weeks, it’s the sort of place you can keep going back to. I dare say it won’t be very long before I darken their door again.

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