Katia Kapustin samples oysters and cocktails at London’s Cassis Bar
I have heard it said that Cassis is not a restaurant you would travel to, rather one that you’d be ‘happy to find around the corner from your actual destination.’ After spending an evening here, trying Massimiliano Blasone’s canapés and chatting with Marlon Abela, I think it’s time to challenge that assertion.
Massimiliano Blasone is what you could call a ‘pedigree’ chef; the list of Michelin star restaurants that he has worked at and contributed to is impressive, to say the least. His last venture at Aspleys left the place with a Michelin star and a marvellous reputation, and now he has joined the Marlon Abela Restaurant Corporation (MARC) at Cassis. However, after speaking with Abela and Blasone, it is evident that it was not only the chef’s ‘outstanding reputation’ that led to his appointment.
To say that Marlon Abela is passionate about wine is to say that Moscow in wintertime is a bit colder than L.A.: that is, understatement of the century. Cassis already has an impressive 800 wine bins, and Abela plans for expansion to 2000 bins. He laughs, ‘I’ve told them to do it, now the management has to worry about it!’
Likewise, Massimiliano Blasone cooks each and every dish with a particular wine in mind. ‘The feel, the balance, the acidity, these are all important’ he comments when referring to his dishes and Abela’s wine. Their passionate ethos concerning wine and food is one and the same: every dish, every mouthful has its wine match.
What of the food? The small preview that was presented last night has left me wanting more, much more. Charming dishes like the seared tuna and crispy buckwheat porridge were a perfect blend of Michelin star quality and home cooking. The smooth crayfish tails with avocado left everyone searching hungrily for more, and the magical risotto with white truffle gave even me (someone who is lukewarm towards truffle) chills.
The food is Michelin star quality for sure, but feels more like comfort food rather than the tiny morsels that you get in other Michelin restaurants. The atmosphere is completely different too; Cassis isn’t an austere museum of food, it’s a lively, welcoming kitchen and that is what Marlon Abela intends for it.
“I want Cassis to be un-stuffy, cool and fun; there is top quality food and wine and it’s a fun place to be .” Indeed, it is a fun place with music pumping out to set an active mood, but not so loud that you start to wonder if you accidentally wandered into a club with food, like so many ‘trendy’ restaurants tend to make to feel nowadays.
Couple Massimiliano’s enthusiastic approach to food and wine with the Marlon Abela’s vision for Cassis, and you get something that is rarely found in London: a stylish yet unpretentious Michelin restaurant that feels as casual as its bistro name implies. I have no doubt that between them Abela and Blasone will take Cassis to new heights of dining excellence without sacrificing that certain Provençal je ne c’est quoi that comes across in the food, and that many will travel across London to sample their success.
Cassis Bistro 232-236
T: 020 7581 1101
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