What can you tell me about Brasserie Zédel?
It’s the new offering from restaurant duo Chris Corbin and Jeremy King. The two, who have been in business now for nearly 30 years are continuing their theme of restoring faded restaurants to their former glory by adding this large-scale, cheap and chic French brassiere to their ever expanding portfolio.
Where is it?
Set in the basement of the old Regent Palace Hotel in the heart of Piccadilly, opposite the Piccadilly theatre. You enter via the small café-style frontage, but don’t be deceived – staff will usher you downstairs to a grand dining room. It has been designed with the same Art Deco opulence of The Delaunay in mind, so walking in you feel like you are on the set of The Great Gatsby.
The site was formerly the famous Atlantic Bar and Grill, and the fact of its 220 covers should give you an idea of the scale of the place.
Who's it suitable for?
The fact it’s owned by King and Corbin means you will be getting the regular clientele from The Wolseley and The Delaunay checking it out, however the prices are dramatically lower than in the former two, so expect a younger crowd who like their snails and steak haché at non-inflated prices.
The day we went the diners seemed to be business-types and older couples, but we’d expect this to change once word gets out. It would be a great place to take your aunt or to party with a large group, all without breaking the bank. Also, the setting is dramatic enough to make it feel like a treat without the price tag.
It also has a unique selling point – an intimate cabaret and performance venue with a mixed programme of live entertainment throughout the week. With shows priced around £15 and starting at 9pm, it’s perfect for an early bite before getting stuck into some soulful jazz or cabaret.
Where should we meet for a drink first?
Naturally we’d pick the bar at Hix on Brewer street – voted best place to drink in the Observer Food Monthly. The sunken bar is an ideal place to take a Negroni or an Old Fashioned. Nick Strangeway (formerly of Hawksmoor) designed the cocktail menu, and it doesn’t disappoint. The only downside is once you start working out how to play the bar billiards, or get comfy in the worn leather sofas, you may not want to leave. If you can't get into Hix then don’t worry – Zédel also has Bar Américain is in the same building. As the name suggests, it’s a classic American bar, serving traditional mixed drinks. (We went in at lunch so can’t say too much on the vibe.)
And where should we sit?
The restaurant is vast, and the best tables are in the middle square where you can see who’s who walking in whilst still being part of the action. We sat to the right side near the bar and sadly got forgotten about, even though Chris Corbin was sat observing the staff from two tables away.
What should we order?
Start with a Lillet or Byrrh (French aperitifs, priced around the £3-mark), and then take the Prix Fixe for £8.75 – carrottes râpeés followed by steak haché, sauce poirve et frites and finishing with a café.
DON’T be intimidated by the large menu – all the classic French staples are on there, and the staff are happy to talk you through anything you don’t recognise. For those who can’t decipher some of the dishes do not fear – they will supply you with a fully translated menu.
DO take two courses, we opted to try just the squid and artichokes for main (£9.75) and although tasty it was just too small to satisfy. Seabass with fennel was a nice light lunch option on the hottest day of the year, but again needed a side or a starter to make us feel content.
Other dishes that looked great as they passed us – garlicky snails smelt heavenly, (£6.75), confit du canard looked the right side of crispy and at £9.95 we will be going back to try it, the beef bourguignon made our heads turn with meaty wafts as it passed us. There are daily specials too – blanquette du veau was Thursday’s dish, and there is also the option of four different cheeses to end the meal with. We didn’t have desert, but all the classics were on there – baba au rhum, ile flottante, crème brulee and tarte au citron.
And what about drinks?
All wine on the list can be bought as a glass, pichet or bottle, with prices starting at a perfectly reasonable £16 for the house white (Sauvignon Pays d’Oc 2011) to £39 for the most expensive red (St Emillion Grand Cru 2009). We drank the Picpoul to remind us of sunny days in the South of France, it lifted our moods and complimented the fish (it would match the platter of oysters perfectly at £1.95 each). There are a small handful of wines on the ‘Reserve du Patron’ section that range from £55-£75, if you feel like you haven’t spent enough.
And how much will this set me back?
You'll really get a pleasant surprise when the bill comes. One course with sides, a pichet of wine and a café came in at £44 for two people, including service. If we’d taken the set menu this would have been £35 for the two. Unbelievable value in a centrally-located venue and in such an opulent setting.
For those who can only afford The Wolseley and The Delaunay as a special treat, Brasserie Zédel fulfils the need for a glamorous setting but with food at reasonable prices. The staff are smart, polite and for all we were forgotten about, they seemed very attentive and friendly to the other diners. Still finding their feet (our waitress didn’t know what was on the fruits du mer, and we waited 20 minutes for the bill), this place will tick the box for those who want to eat French food and drink affordable wine without getting stung by over-inflated prices.
The budget prices may mean this place will be rammed, but do not fear – we have been told they will be saving tables for walk-ins, so it's still worth chancing it if you happen to be wandering hungry through the streets of Piccadilly.
Brasserie Zédel, 20 Sherwood Street,London W1F 7ED
Prices were correct at time of writing.