That little strip on Ritherdon Road is almost like a Balham sub-culture; far enough from the centre of town to have its own core audience. On our continual quest to find our favourite brunch in Balham, SwishJunction sloped over on a very cold Saturday morning to The French Cafe.
The cafe extends quite far back but retains a cosy feel, and the decor is simple but effective. Everywhere you turn there’s an added detail, from the grand mirrors to the wooden boxes holding napkins and other kitchenware. Almost like an extension of someone’s countryside kitchen, but with posher chairs (no rickety furniture here).
One thing we noted is the adequate amount of space between tables. Cosiness is great (see Lavish Habit; you get a seat where you can but it just works) but this is the sort of place where you want to eat with just your intended company and really stretch out.
The menu is brief, sticking to one side of A4 – always a good sign in our books. A busy menu always feels a little stressful; impossible to choose from and how can you know what the real signature dish is? It was still tricky to choose, but we opted for les oeufs, French-style (well, when in Rome, or, whatever) and good old classic Benedict-style.
Ouefs Francais – that’s soft-boiled eggs on shallot potatoes, bacon lardons and hollandaise sauce – was a great mixture of salty foodstuffs. The yolk was an eye-popping orange hue and we loved the mixture of soft and crispy textures. The portion was modest but enough, although the owner of the dish admitted to food envy when eyeing up the Eggs Benedict ordered. Fat, fluffy muffins lightly toasted (hurrah, no burnt bits vaguely concealed in hollandaise sauce) topped with very crispy bacon (no chewy fatty bits here either), two springy poached eggs that popped and oozed yolk in a very satisfying fashion, mixing with the generous dollop of hollandaise.
You can see by the description our favourite dish, ironically not the French one. We eyed up the English breakfast but figured that would be a pointless exercise. However when served to our neighbours we can report that the portions are generous and they serve HASH BROWNS. Happiness.
The fresh orange juice was zingy without too much acidity and the tea perfectly lovely. Our bill came to around £26 including service; not bad for something that will keep you going until afternoon tea (well we’re only human). All in all a great mid-market option which operated a sleek service, no bustling around or chaotic environment.
Enq: The French Cafe, 16-18 Ritherdon Road, SW17 8QD.