Following his remarkably impressive two-Michelin starred stint at The Capital – and a three year sojourn Stateside - Eric Chavot returns to town with this brilliant Mayfair brasserie, where contemporary takes on French classics should be just about to send the capital into a bit of a culinary tizzy.
It’s a brasserie with bells on. And whilst those bells might jar just a little (the palatial baroque chandeliers and faux-Corinthian columns grind ever so slightly against the traditional art deco styling), it’s a very smart and sleek spot that will have all those top-rate tax dodgers from over the Channel nodding approvingly into their chocolat chauds. But it’s clearly not just for all the newly nearby émigrés, with the kind of accessible food and feel that make repeat visits from even those far flung all too appealing. Grand banquettes, a gorgeously intricate mosaic floor (with menus to match) and buffed mirrors complete one very dapper Mayfair take on French brasserie dining.
Two Michelin stars creates a certain esteem, so Chavot’s return to the capital has been pretty excitedly heralded by those fortunate enough to have sampled the food he was knocking out at The Capital. And whilst his new spot is certainly more accessible, there’s already plenty of giddy flapping from all and sundry as word starts to get out and tables begin to be booked up en masse. The man himself works the room (in his whites, mind), which seems very hospitable, and although his staff can sometimes be a little hesitant, they’re well-drilled, pleasingly Gallic and obviously know their onions.
While the food at his old haunt was obviously geared toward the men of Michelin, this is poshed-up brasserie fare - and still quite brilliant. Sourcing is clearly meticulous and execution faultless, with some very able hands in the kitchen working off a menu chock-full of the kind of annoyingly appealing dishes that not so much breed indecision as factory farm it. Prices, at least for this kind of cooking, aren’t bad, with starters between £7.50 and £11.50, and mains from £16 to £24.
The deliciously delicate crab salad, for example, is perfect. Flecks of sweet, white crabmeat are mixed with just the right amount of parsley, a dusting of paprika and a mayonnaise so light it nearly needs a tether. Silky avocado, a nugget of little gem lettuce and acidity from a squeeze or two of lemon cosy up as very compatible bedfellows. Similarly sublime soft-shell crab is not only given a beautiful tempura, but comes served alongside some cracking whipped aioli pleasingly thumped through with loads of garlic.
The slightly charred poussin, splayed almost indecently and dressed in lemon and garlic is another stand out dish, but it’s the mini rack of lamb that’s really worthy of worship. Three incredibly good chops cooked to rosy via some lightly blackened edges are stacked on couscous sparkling with golden raisins, cumin, coriander and mint, with a tiny little pouring pot of phenomenally good olive jus on the side for a bit of fruity, sweet depth. It’s very, very good.
A slightly bastardised café liégeois (here made with mocha ice cream, whipped Chantilly cream, chocolate shards and brownie) might be a little rich for some, but the crème brûlée (with speckles of vanilla and an even, bubbled burn) is so unfeasibly light and luxurious that there really is no excuse not to order it.
A wine list heavily skewed toward France does mean there’s not a huge amount of value to be had, but the fact that many are available by the glass, the pichet and the carafe ensures there’s plenty of flexibility. Things kick off at £20 and rise steadily up to nigh on a grand, but the by-the-glass options are a great shout – a cracking Bordeaux (a 2007 Château Le Maine Martin, Vieilles Vignes) at £7.50 will make you want to snaffle the bottle. Nespresso coffee is reliable, and good.
The Last Word
It might be one step removed from the fancy fandangle of The Capital but in an industry perhaps now less inclined to gravitate toward the fabled guidebook, Eric Chavot’s superb new spot shows exactly how things should be done.