Grady Atkins’ Paysan residency at Canton’s Bloc Coffee has been a big hit this summer. Former head chef at Le Gallois, (late Arbenning, now Heaney’s) and named in interviews as ‘mentor’ by the man the Guardian called ‘Britain’s Hottest Chef‘, Tomos ‘Brat’ Parry, he has vast experience of kitchens the world over.
Friday nights have seen a French-influenced list of of classics- think fish a la meuniere, chocolate ganache- but the following day is more relaxed.
A small menu of small portions: as someone (almost) sang, Saturdays night’s alright for grazing. None are more than £6.50; most are much cheaper.
Gnocchi are cloudlike little puffs, refined and delicate. There’s pickled beetroot to bring acidity and aid digestion and a bright pistou: it’s all Fragile, elegant, somehow.
Cooking onions confit renders them buttery-soft and foregrounds their natural sweetness, before they are dusted with smoked paprika, dressed in the lightest of batters and balanced with diced cornichons. It’s a lovely thing, transforming something humble and workaday into something velvety, something luxurious.
I want to linger: I inhale them, faster than you can say, ‘Sacre bleu, these are about as far from your chain pub ‘extruded onion paste shaped into ringlets and blast-frozen for delivery in hefty freezer bags’ as you can imagine’.
Onglet next, a hanger steak topped with sweet shallots which are deftly balanced with the rich, deep and mellow bosky flavours of last year’s preserved ceps, The whole thing is resting in a jus which will have you fingering the plate when you think no one is looking. And you’d better: this is not to be squandered.
Grady mentions that he part-cures the meat before cooking to (ahem) beef up the texture a little more, so it delivers an awfully big hit of flavour in a small portion. That this is the most expensive dish, yet under £7, tells you something important about this menu.
We finish with a couple of French cheeses: a creamy, salty-sharp Roquefort and an Époisses, appropriately squidgy and stinky. It’s a reminder of simple pleasures, and confirmation that blue cheese with beef is right up there as one of the reasons people will never stop eating meat. I say ‘finish’: we manage a few chocolate truffles- thick, bitter-sweet, decadent, and a (complimentary) piece of pain perdu-influenced caramelised bread pudding and a glossy sourdough ice cream so thick with dairy fats it puts other pretenders to shame .
The fact you can do this sitting inside Victoria Park- the quiet end- if you nab an outside table just makes it even better: sunshine food for sunshine days. What you have here is little dishes where there is nowhere to hide. Misjudge one element and it would be glaringly obvious. What you have here is little plates precision engineered to please. They look simple. They aren’t. But they are lovely. Modest-sized portions they may be, but be prepared for them to keep popping back into your mind.
Someone recently took me to task for using ‘hard words’ when I write. I’m not going to apologise for that, but ironically, the best I can offer for Plat Paysan is proper cooking, from a proper Chef.
Now. That’s where I was going to leave it. But as I was finishing this off, Grady Atkins tweeted this:
and followed it with
And really, that exchange says more about his food, his approach, than my drivel ever could. Plat Paysan is considered, soulful cooking with no pretensions, heartily satisfying stuff. It deserves your time and your money.
“Saturday, Saturday, Saturday, Saturday, Saturday…”
Paysan by Grady Atkins
Cowbridge Road East
Paysan Friday (reservations only)
Plat Paysan Saturday (walk-ins only)
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This blog is a very simple thing.
I won’t try to sell you any hand lotion, exercise programmes, coffee syrups or Patagonian nose flutes. You won’t find tips on dating, ‘wellness’ or yoga mats.
I write because I love it (and food, as indicated by my increasing girth). Greed happens to be my Deadly Sin of choice, but at least it is never shy of providing me with subject matter.
A simple thing, then: all you get is me wittering on semi-coherently about places I’ve eaten at; hence a ‘restaurant blog’ rather than a ‘food blog’, although there are a few recipes scattered throughout.
From mezze to Michelin ‘fine dining’ and all points in between.