"Ooh la la, a grand French brasserie arrives on Piccadilly Circus"Review Rating: Reviewed by Matthew B
London drinkers of a certain age will remember the Atlantic Bar as one of the 'It bars' of the mid 90s, a vast underground art deco space reminiscent of an ocean liner. Its star eventually waned and when I visited for a works' Christmas do around 2005 (then re-named as the Astor Lounge) it was a shadow of its former self, albeit with a certain faded glory. The highlight of the night was being threatened with a bottle by a psychotic colleague, but that's another story...
Having been out of use for some years, fast forward to 2012 and we can happily report that the space is once again open for business. Taken over by the owners of The Wolseley, and more recently The Delauney in Aldwych, Brasserie Zédel adds to the canon with this authentic French brasserie. As authentic as you can get in Londres
In a no brainer move, the art deco fixtures and fittings have mostly been left untouched, and given a general spruce up. Arriving at ground level (where there is a small daytime cafe), you descend down to a space akin to a hotel lobby. Indeed, the restaurant is on the same site as the Regents Palace Hotel, situated on the floors above.
The main dining area, with its imposing square marble pillars and beautiful ceiling lights, has had its old central bar removed, now re-positioned against a side wall, in place of more tables. Waiting staff in traditional black and white uniforms bustled about – this place can handle a lot of covers – and the room had a decent lunchtime buzz. In keeping with the recently opened Delauney, a large clock sits at one end, adorned with the Brasserie Zédel logo, as is all the crockery, and even the packets of sugar lumps. This all adds to that authentic brasserie feel.
As does the menu. The default card is nearly all in French, but we soldiered on without requesting the English version, attempting to convince ourselves we were actually in Paris. It caters little to the fripperies of modern dining styles and our choices were made accordingly.
Fish soup starter was appropriately fishy, with rouille on toast on the side. My friend's herring with apple oil was satisfactory but nothing revelatory.
The mains were divided up into poissons
(three varieties of an Alsace frankfurter and sauerkraut dish) and viandes
. There was a vegetarian menu available but we didn't ask for it – if it's properly Parisian then this should be a risible selection but we would like to think this is one area of French cuisine they have chosen to update to London's tastes.
My friend's steak hachė was a very nice lump of ground beef, with the sauce au poivre
subtle enough not to overpower the meat. My duck confit with garlic potatoes went down a treat, and we opted to share a tarte au citron
, reasoning this was a good benchmark dessert to compare it with other restaurants. My friend, who had eaten a similar dish at Carluccio's a few days earlier declared Brasserie Zédel's version to be superior. And this is an interesting point, because of the un-West End prices. The lemon tart at Carluccio’s is £4.50 to Brasserie Zédel's £3.
Mains range from £7.50 for the steak hachė up to £15.95 for the most expensive dish – tenderloin fillet. The prix fixe options, available all day, are amazing value at £8.75 for two courses or £11.75 for three (including the steak hachė main).
For a restaurant slap bang on Piccadilly Circus, this is surely what is going to ensure this large space gets the turnover it needs to keep it in business. And once the tourist guides get wind of it...
Service was friendly but slightly out of kilter on our visit – the wine didn't turn up until after the starters had arrived and we had to chase it up – but that's to be expected for a newly opened restaurant.
While it doesn’t have the high-end luxe glamour of The Wolseley, this is not what Brasserie Zédel are aiming for. This is much more accessible, and very competitive with any number of high street chains you'd care to mention.
All this, plus the unique space, makes it a winner. In fact, I can't think of anywhere else like this in London, offering a straight up French Brasserie experience on this scale. The art deco Bar Americain cocktail bar and performance area were not open on our lunch visit, they will have to wait until our return!
Matthew B reviewed Brasserie Zedel on Mon 16 Jul 2012