Friday, 12 October 2012

Brasserie Zedel: Elegance but at a price

Punchline: Old school elegance while prices match the Depression. However best to stick to the desserts.

Brasserie elegance
The venue is a rather enormous downstairs dance-hall type place in Picadilly, sandwiched in between Whole Foods and hidden below a rather innocuous looking bar upstairs. Zedel's OM is the triple threat of drink, food and entertainment (evening cabaret), however the main focus and investment has been on restoring the dining hall. Think of the art-deco dining room on the Normandie, or typical Parisian brasseries back in 30's. Marble pillars, buffed railings and art-deco lighting. Although you can see the joins in the marble panelling if you squint hard enough, they have done a pretty good job here and it did deliver a memorable setting; I just wish we'd had cabaret tickets for after.

We visited for a late Sunday lunch at 2pm and had foolishly already filled ourselves up with several croissants and sausage rolls from The Breadstall in Clapham and a tarte aux fromboises from Valerie's for elevenses. I was naively surprised to see the place full to bursting when we arrived. Although the people next to us had been kept waiting for food enough for them to complain three times, we had no such problems, however service could be described as a little frantic. The food is typical french brasserie food however I think that some of the menu options are a little lazy and I'd liked to have seen one or two more creative plates regardless of the theme.

Carrot and cinnamon soup. Pate de Champagne Maison.

The first thing to say is that this place is focused first and foremost on serving up value. The soup was £2.75 and the pate gave change from a fiver. Both were pretty tasty and their primary ingredient's flavour was not lost. It was of course noticeably not top-drawer stuff, but its simple, easy-to-eat French fare. One gripe is that the jelly that came with the pate was diced into tiny cubes making eating a little fiddly, oh and two cornichons is a little meager.
Pate de Champagne Maison
Carrot and Cinnamon soup

Beef bourguignon. Choucroute Alsacienne.

The beef was a real disappointment. Dry to the point of DIY sandpaper and the little puddle of jus seemed to disappear in front of our eyes. The better-half left a few of the more powdery cubes and chomped on some of the carrots instead.
Beef Bourg - Dry as sand
The choucroute was nicely tart with the wine and vinegar playing first violin. The cabbage flavours came in a close second, with the cloves giving a warm round of applause at the curtain-call. The pork belly and sausage were smokey as advertised but a little measly in portion size and a touch dried out. The frank was solid and carried the kraut well. For £12 not a bad deal but could do better.


Lemon tart. Riz de Grand-mere with plum compote.

Everyone needs to listen to this if nothing else: this is Zedel's real strength and frankly a reason in itself for going. There are a multitude of offerings at frankly ludicrously low prices that beg for you to order another to share. I'm just sad that I had eaten so much that day that I only could stuff one into my face-hole.

The lemon tart was outrageously good and is another inherent love of the better-half. The filling was smooth and silky and tart enough to say proudly 'Lemon' like a VW ad, but not vociferously enough to cause that tingly sensation in the tastebuds. In context, way better than Paul and the fancy tarte au citron Waitrose are doing at the moment, not as good as the homemade one I made using the Heston recipe (although that one cost about £15 in ingredients).

Fantastic Lemon tart

I made sure the rice pudding was served warm before ordering as I have been fooled by this before. I have to say, it was just as my grandmother makes it; if she was smart enough to add vanilla. Soft and pillowy puffs of rice with an incredibly satisfying creamy body and real vanilla kick. The plum compote gave a nice tartness to the endless calorie-fest, and it was polished off in record time. Not before the lemon tart had disappeared though I may add.

Riz de Grand-Mere

The Slosh: a pichet of 2006 Bordeaux (no other details) was only £9.40 and was eminently quaffable. Good deal, but cant comment on the others on the list. They do also have a more expensive wine list should you choose.

Zedel is vying to supply the market with the affordable elegance that dated French venues have usually failed to deliver (Entrecote, Cafe Rouge) and I think it hits the mandate well. You do genuinely forget, if even just briefly, that you are still in London.
Do: expect classic brasserie dishes at bouchon prices with a cracking desert offering.
Don't: go for a special occasion or for any michelin-quality produce.

Cost for three courses plus wine: £50.

Where: 20 Sherwood Street W1F 7ED, 020 7734 4888

Food: 7/10
Service: 6/10
Slosh: 7/10
Value: 7/10

Overall: 7/10

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