Camille is a restaurant built for revelry, excess and an appreciably French disregard for hyper-productivity or abstemiousness. There is a mirror scrawled with the day’s suggested digestifs, racked bottles of wine that wink and blow kisses from behind the little bar, and a lone tap that issues perspiring, lavishly-frothed schooners of draught beer.

So, of course, the one thing that my mate Richard was not anticipating from the other two of us at the table, just as our server came over to take drinks orders, was a furtive, simultaneous admission that we were both off booze for the night. “Neither of you are drinking?” he said, striking a tone of lightly betrayed surprise. We can debate the precise etiquette of when to drop the bomb of temporary sobriety on friends implicitly expecting the opposite. Separately, there is probably a conversation to be had about the degree to which some of us tend to blithely buttress every social interaction with alcohol.

But what is not up for debate, as it turns out, is this: Camille is a supremely creative and confident new-wave bistro that has a cool quality and enrapturing lightness of touch that can be appreciated without the softening influence of anything stronger than a cup of tea.

This is not enormously surprising given the pedigree. Camille comes from Clare Lattin and Tom Hill (the founding duo behind Soho’s Ducksoup), serial investor Ratnesh Bagdai and St John-trained head chef Elliot Hashtroudi. That air of a neo-minimalist hospitality supergroup transfers into a sexy, sure-footed space. Perched at the edge of Borough Market, it’s a 40-cover, linen-curtained bunker of gleaming mirrors, ornate coat hooks, scarlet wood-panelling, and napkin dispensers apparently salvaged from a repossessed motorway diner.

Smoked eel devilled eggs sounded like the apex of umami-drunk Modern British yet had an enjoyably old-fashioned decorousness: three country club-ready halves of egg, packing just a measured ankle flash of chilli heat, and effectively garnished with slivered fish and a kitsch sprig of chervil. Crispy fried mutton was a handsomely crumbed, giant lamb nugget, well teamed with a bolshy, weightless onion aioli. Trotter and parsley terrine was ravishing and delicate and utterly unforgettable when pushed into perfect, crackled baguette from Rotherhithe’s Snapery Bakery.

Camille truly is a good-time establishment; a place with a bottle opener in its hand, a song in its heart and wafting escargot butter on its breath

As for the ragged clump of mangalitza rillettes? Possessed of a narkier, oinking intensity, but no less sumptuous smeared onto toast and dotted with sharp cornichons. You’ll have noticed that none of this is especially light or newfangled. Though much of its menu changes frequently, Camille’s core offerings — a thick trencher of crab toast encircled by an intense, glossed bisque; extraordinary, multi-layered blocks of deep-fried potato pavé squiggled with hay mayonnaise; rosy pink slices of Hereford onglet in a peppercorn Café de Paris butter so dark and rich it’s practically a makhani sauce — strengthens the theory that modern London’s urbane food cognoscenti now tend to eat like Gascon farmhands.

Occasionally, as with a determinedly brown riff on the classic stew lamb navarin, the rustic heaviness can dull the impact. But there is usually a well-selected drink to cut through the tide of richness.I fell gratefully into multiple spritzes made with the godly non-alcoholic aperitif Botivo. Richard, who manfully accepted the challenge of drinking for three, skipped from glasses of natural vigneronne Noella Morantin’s Sauvignon Blanc to a punctuating nip of Poire Williams eau de vie, all while Hamish and I tried not to look too much like dogs at a butcher’s window.

We finished with a toffee-brown, fabulously creamy burnt milk tart, and made plans for a less constrained do-over once people’s respective periods of martyrish new year abstinence and marathon training had elapsed.

Off in the bar area that abuts the semi-open kitchen, members of the young, sparky team could be seen discreetly clinking end-of-service beers. Camille truly is a good-time establishment; a place with a bottle opener in its hand, a song in its heart and wafting escargot butter on its breath. But, crucially, it is the skilfully rendered romance of the cooking that seals it as one of the fledgling year’s most intoxicating openings.

2-3 Stoney Street, SE1 9AA. Meal for two plus drinks about £170. Open Monday from 5pm-10pm, Tuesday to Saturday from noon-10pm and Sunday from noon-9.30pm; camillerestaurant.co.uk

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2024-02-28T11:05:48Z dg43tfdfdgfd