Move over “popup” 20 cover, no booking upstarts, here come the Gastrodomes.
Brasserie Zédel opens just months ahead of the London offshoot of NYC’s now famous Balthazar, which amidst murmurings amongst the foodierati, is set to be one of this years biggest openings.
It remains to be seen how London receives the New York twist of a traditional french brasserie. My suspicion is that London’s plaudits might not be as generous given London’s proximity to the real deal, a mere two and a half hours away. In many respects Brasserie Zédel from Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, who are behind the Wolseley and The Delaunay, may well have stolen a march on the American cousin.
Perhaps the nostalgia for the grand brasseries of Paris started in recent times here in London with Antony Demetre and Will Smiths Les Deux Salons. Les Deux Salons has been a roaring success. A close counterfeit of the Parisian, albeit with a distinctly British edge. Good brasserie imitations are in fact rare beasts. In Paris of course the most of the famous names are still there and on the whole they still just about manage to deliver on their historic reputations…just.
And so to the Zédel…
The brasserie, an ornate 220 cover room, is a recession busting grand liner. Descend the steps and down here, all is impervious to the current economic woes of Europe. The interior alone is worth a visit. According to Architecture Today Magazine, the interiors of Brasserie Zédel are “probably the best and most authentic series of 1930s interiors in this country”. The marble clad room presided over by its grand clock, is frankly one of the most impressive in the capital. The original interiors were taken apart when the building was rebuilt and then replaced piece by piece, before the finishing touches of designer David Collins were lavished upon them. Not that you’d know. You could easily imagine this place as always having been here. Moreover, I’d say that few restaurants are able to instantly transport you elsewhere in place and time. In addition to the grand dining room there is an art deco Bar Américain – a classic cocktail bar with a small snack menu and a live Cabaret and Jazz venue ‘The Crazy Coqs’. Completing the journey back to Paris’s golden age is the Zinc Café – a street-level café and wine bar.
For some, all this will be hackneyed, but I imagine for those visiting and for a great many Londoners hankering for a bit of Paris, it will not. To those visiting from across the Atlantic, this is a neat little piece of Paris which may have them wondering whether the short hop over la manche is really worth it.
In an era where food seems to be moving towards the minimal the and the Scandanavian, the Zédel has unashamedly walked the other way. This is what I imagine menus looked like in Britain circa 1970, entirely French in influence and language. The prices seem from another age too, sub £5 starters and no mains above £16. You’d imagine with such keen pricing portion sizes would be scaled back in line with their Parisien inspiration. Far from it portions are ample.
Corbin and King have clearly done their homework. The best of La Coupole, Brasserie Lipp, Bowfinger and even the contemporary Le Comptoir is on show. Like Paris’ most famous brasseries there is more than a nod to Alsace. As we wait, a smokey and bacony waft of goodness drifts past as the choucroute is delivered with suitable reverence to the neighbouring table. For anyone who has visited the grand brasseries of Paris all will be familiar here.
You can kick off with a bargain of Oeufs dur mayonnaise for £2:75 or Terrine de Campagne, Salade Périgourdine, all of which hover around the £5 mark
A classic prawns Marie rose with a nice hit of cayenne with some retro iceberg lettuce, exactly as it should be.
For the mains, Onglet steak with shallots, a good selection of grilled fish, Choucroute alsacienne, Bœuf en Daube. The plat du jour offers up further classics in the form of blanquette de veau and lapin du moutarde.
Some very good frites as you’d expect
Desserts keep the classical theme and reflect Corbins and Kings deft touch with what they term vieniosserie and the rest of us may simply call cakes. Ile Flottante, Baba au Rhum avec Crème Chantilly, Peach Melba, Tarte Citron all classic and well executed.
A classic Pear tarte
Peach Melba given an extra lift by the crunch of a sprinkling of almonds and caramel
Its worth noting that whilst you can book, a large amount of seats are available for drop in guests and that will be welcome for those who find themselves in the area and need some quick restoration.
If there is a criticism it is a minor one that will I’m sure be ironed out in time. To my taste the seasoning was heading towards the overdone. Reign that salt in and they have another hit on their hands just in time for the Olympics. Its hardly a showcase of the best of British but for authentic Parisien Brasserie it’ll be hard to top.
Brasserie Zedel has already had praise heaped upon it from Pierre Koffman who was also there the night we visited and has pronounced it “the only authentic brasserie in London”. Yes with pronouncements like that it’s off to a flying start. A great addition to the London restaurant scene whether those prices remain needs to be seen, but for now but it is every bit the bargain that Les Deux Salons is.