Brasserie Zédel, 20 Sherwood St, London W1F 7ED
Brasserie Zédel appears to be London’s favourite cheap eat of the moment. A touch of luxury at silly prices (as in silly cheap) by restauranteurs Chris Corbin and Jeremy King of The Wolseley and The Delaunay. We were intrigued by this promise of a high-end restaurant at low-cost prices, ones I’ve not seen since the budget priced, but lovely Le Mercury in Angel and Pierre Victoire of Soho.
The grand art deco space, adorned with gold and marble dating back to the 1930s, although let down by yellow-tinged dimmed down version of chip shop lighting. With 250 covers is housed at the old Regent Palace Hotel, backing onto the stunning MASH (which boasts 50 more covers.) A similar feel of grandeur but that’s where the similarities lie. The saying of ‘you get what you pay for’ rings true at Brasserie Zédel.
A bustling room, practically every table was taken early on a Monday evening, we felt like tourists, but not tourists in Paris, tourists in London instead. It did have similarities of the one and only Parisian restaurant I visited in December on my work Christmas do, a restaurant right opposite the station, chosen for others for the ease of herding thirty odd people from the Eurostar. Possibly the French equivalent of an Angus Steakhouse, who knows (if you are a tourist in London, please do not go to an Angus Steakhouse under any circumstances).
At Zédel the service is swift with a tinge of arrogance, we felt quite rushed, this isn’t somewhere to spend a leisurely evening. The jarring background noise of people created a feeling of unease, like we were at Gatwick with a flight to catch. A conveyor belt of a restaurant, where no one comes over to ask if everything is OK with your meal until after the event when it’s pretty much too late to do anything about it. We got the impression no one cared whether we liked our food or not.
The menu is in French, an English one is available if you ask, but who wants to do that? Between the two of us (and a bit of help from Google) we managed to decipher it. As I was a herring virgin I went for the Filet de Hareng, Pommes à l’Huile £4.75, although I was tempted by the frogs legs as I couldn’t remember if they did actually taste like chicken. As for the wine, a bottle of Merlot Pays d’Oc 2012 was a reasonable £19.25.
Ade had opted for the more pricey Sardines à la Provençal £6.25, a childhood favourite. His dad used to make a less refined version of tinned sardines mashed up with ketchup and toasted on a thick slice of crusty bread. Funny how nostalgia can mess with your taste buds. I enjoyed his starter over mine, unfortunately discovering that herring is not for me. The best bit on the plate was the shards of onion, the carrots and potato were too waxy, almost artificial and cheap tasting.
I wanted to know if it’s possible to have a decent steak in London for the teeny price of just over a tenner, so ordered the Onglet Grillé, Confit d’Échalote £12. The waiter recommended it being cooked medium rare as otherwise it may be tough. Alarm bells should have rung when he said that, but we were told a similar thing about Danish steak at MASH and all was fine with that meat. The slab of meat looked promising when it arrived, drenched in a thick red wine and shallot sauce with a side of crunchy frites.
It took precisely 163 chews (Ade counted) until a mouthful of the steak was possible to be swallowed. It was like chewing a new bicycle tyre. What made things worse was the diners next to us had the same dish and both sliced through and chewed their meat with no problems. When I mentioned it to the waiter he looked pretty annoyed, not sure if he was annoyed at me or the kitchen, he mumbled something about it being an acquired taste. Am sure we’ll have better luck when we try Flat Iron Steak next week.
I was offered the choice of ordering another dish, but Ade had almost finished his minuscule, (but tasty in comparison) portion of Boeuf Bourguignon £9.75 so I didn’t bother. A sure-fire way of ruining a meal by eating alone when the other person has finished. A lesson learnt in trying two new things in one sitting.
I ordered the Creme Brûlée £4.50 to finish, hoping it’d both fill and cheer me up, and luckily it did. A good-sized portion that I almost couldn’t finish. My obsession with the crunch satisfaction that can be blamed on Pub du Vin, continues, the crunch on this one didn’t quite hit the mark, but the flavour of the caramelised top did. Ade’s second visit to childhood of Riz Grand-Mère £4.25 rice pudding. He loved it, the sweet and creamy with hints of vanilla pudding paired perfectly with the sour stewed plum.
Yet another place that didn’t live up to the hype, fine for a cheap pit-stop, but for us it lacked warmth, quality and soul. A great shame that such a beautiful and lovingly restored place doesn’t deliver the service, food and atmosphere it deserves. As we left through the delightful looking ZL Café that we somehow missed on the way in, we decided that is more our kind of thing. Small and cosy, serving pastries, light dishes coffee and booze, we may give this a go instead…
Opening hours: Monday – Sunday: 11.30am – Midnight
Nearest tube: Piccadilly Circus