"Beautiful food, no ambience"Review Rating: Reviewed by Leila
From the outside, the Park Plaza Westminster is utterly monstrous. It’s a black, apocalyptic construction that is the architectural equivalent of a dalek. Then as you enter you are lulled into a false sense of elegance, perhaps because of the smartly suited attendants, the gleaming polished floor you can see your reflection in, or the chic Samsonite suitcases waiting to be transported to their rooms. The previous feeling returns once we locate the restaurant, which clumsily hidden behind screens in places where the designers have left gaps in the walls.
Anyway, onto the food, which is a mixture of rustic French fare (beef bourguignon, pâté en croûte) and more gourmet offerings (aged beef tournedos Rossini with foie gras and truffle sauce, wild turbot with shallot confit). Raw tuna tartare is paired with little pieces of velvety avocado in a sesame dressing; less delicate is the lobster salad which is far too big and is a mish mash of ingredients, albeit very tasty ones: cubes of soft Emmental cheese, quail’s eggs and bacon crisps peep out of heaps of lettuce in a garlicky dressing, however the succulent lobster pieces are so perfect they make this hotchpotch starter entirely forgivable.
The meaty roasted monkfish is a delight with tender chorizo and a cassoulet of flavoursome white beans, but they’ve once again overestimated the portion size with the suckling pork shoulder as I seem to have half a pig on my plate. Being unable to finish its tender, juicy meat covered in crispy skin and its accompanying grilled apple leaves me with terrible food guilt.
The desserts are great too - rich peanut butter chocolate mousse with a crispy peanut and oat base plus ice cream, and a lovely apple tarte tatin, both washed down with an exquisitely sweet Sauternes. By now we’re convinced Chef Joël is a master at what he does - heck, even our mise en bouche of savoury tapenade with toasts paired with sweet cherry tomatoes is thoughtfully prepared. A quick trip to the toilets reveals why the restaurant is surprisingly empty – everyone is listening to the piano+singing combo at the bar opposite. It’s a shame such beautiful food is stuck in such sterile surroundings.
Brasserie Joel are currently offering a fast lunchtime service from Monday to Friday when you order their dish of the day. If the ‘plat du jour’ hasn’t landed on your table within 30 minutes of ordering you get your money back, just make sure you notify the waiter on arrival.
Leila reviewed Brasserie Joël on Tue 14 Jun 2011