Having had a few days to recover from my altitude sickness (well that was my excuse for a somewhat fragile state) after dinner at Sushisamba, our next little excursion into the new popular haunts was to Zédel, the latest of Jeremy King and Chris Corbin’s Rexra Empire; the duo behind The Wolesley and The Delauney have another success on the back of their tried and tested formula.
The deceptive street level café entrance behind Piccadilly Circus gives way to an underground empire comprised of the American Bar, a dedicated cabaret room which has me very excited indeed (as there just aren’t enough smart cabaret venues in central London) and a vast two hundred seater restaurant.
The main restaurant is reminiscent of the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station or Le Train Bleu at Gare de Lyon in Paris with its timeless opulence and it had a strange familiarity to it – then it dawned on me… It used to be The Atlantic, where I had spent too many late nights during the Nineties dancing in an Alaia dress drinking overpriced champagne. The space has been lovingly restored with added touches of Thirties lights, gilded pilasters and large false windows, the result being you don’t feel you are two flights down at all; the airy glamour creates a buzzy New York glamorous vibe.
Like the Wolseley the menu changes monthly, is not too complicated and is authentically French, with mainly French staff on the floor. Monsieur Le Gris was happy with this and the fact that there was also a silver pot of French mustard on the table and good table linen.
‘Et voila,’ he said picking up the pepper mill and inspecting it. ‘This,’ he said, holding the mill firmly in his hand, ‘is the sign of a good restaurant.’
‘The Peugeot movement of the pepper mill.’
‘Oh Monsieur Le Gris, I will make sure I grind your mill with love and appreciation.’
Zédel is superb value for money with the soup de jour at just £2.25 and my favourite salad d’endive au Roquefort at just £4.75. It is recession-proof and it certainly works because the restaurant was packed at 9.15 on Sunday night. My salad got top marks for an authentic dressing and the Frog Prince was very happy with his frisée aux lardons which he described as perfectly authentic and nicely presented.
Pictured left: Brasserie Zédel
I’m afraid a rather indulgent Sunday lunch prevented us from ordering a main course but that didn’t stop the Frog Prince from ordering a crème brûlée on the proviso that the test of a true restaurant is whether they can do a good crème brûlée or not. I seem to think this was just an excuse to order a dessert but who am I to chastise while I sit in my submissive position (in other words, I wasn’t paying for the bill)?
A classic crème brûlée should be prepared thus: with the custard cold but the caramelised layer on the surface applied just moments before serving. This means to receive a crème brûlée with a cold crust or warm custard is a fail – the top should still be bubbling and not burnt while the bottom of the custard in the pot should still be chilled.
‘Well, Monsieur Le Gris?’ I asked as he gently tapped the caramelized crust.
‘Pas mal… mais not the best.’
Perhaps not but yet again the entire ramekin was inhaled before I could even order a second spoon and with a final bill cheaper than a soggy Croque Monsieur at Café Rouge, one simply can’t complain. I now know where Monsieur Le Gris’ weaknesses lie, within the twisted depths of puddings and deserts. This is gastro-ammunition indeed.
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