July 7, 2018
Dinner in this part of town is an event not an obligation. Here it’s almost not about the food, which is exquisite in its own right, but what it is paired with, a fitting metaphor for how a meal should be shared as a celebration of life’s experiences not just life itself.
So here is my review #2 dedicated to Brasserie Zédel, just down the road from The Duck & Rice that I shared last week. Feel free to check it out.
Image courtesy of The Battered Black Book
Surprisingly easy given the popularity of the place yet that is testament to the expansiveness of the brasserie itself. This place feels effortlessly efficient culminating in the colossal yet unobtrusive timepiece taking centre stage. Polished waiters aren’t afraid to point to it reminding you that your two hours with them are regrettably coming to an end as they prepare to usher in the next set of guests.
Three days in advance is sufficient for tables fewer than three guests; a week is suggested for larger groups.
From the outside, Brasserie Zédel looks unassuming; the ground floor café is a façade to the treasures lying on the lower floors. Towards the back, an ambient red sign flashing the words “Brasserie Zédel” beckoned confused first-timers into Aladdin’s cave. It felt like a moment of judgement as we wove our way through the café, down a carpeted flight of stairs flanked by picture frames brandishing imagery harking back to an era of French hedonism. Such extravagance naturally thrusted us into a marble foyer that immediately made us feel as if we were about to enter a masquerade sans masks.
As we were guided to our table, I couldn’t help but notice the prototypical French flair of the waiters floating across the floor, so confident in their style exuding reassurance about the tacit superiority of French cuisine and the Zédel experience.
The brasserie manages to pack a lot of people in and at times we felt as if we were in the waiting room of New York’s Grand Central Terminal at 9 in the morning, an unforgiving echo chamber of non-stop conversationalists who enjoy oversharing.
A sign of a restaurant that is true to its roots is if the locals go, which Zédel has in abundance. Apart from the French clientele, expect American family gatherings at 6pm, awkward first dates at 7pm, fashion designers at 8pm and a girls’ night at 9pm. Lights dim at 8pm, which is perfect as a mid-meal topic of conversation in case it gets stale.
A pleasant 2 minute walk from Piccadilly Circus.
French – quintessentially French.
Vegetarian options: ★★★☆☆
There is a separate vegetarian menu available upon request. Don’t fear the judgement – it’s worth taking a look or else you’re stuck with buttered parsnips and potatoes from the main menu.
- Minted pea soup (v) … £2.95
- Dijon dressed shredded carrot (v) … £3.45
- Heritage tomato salad, watercress and basil oil (v) … £5.25
- Avocado vinaigrette (v) … £5.50
- Spinach quiche (v) … £5.50
- Endive and roquefort salad (v) … £6.50
- Omelette with fresh herbs (v) … £8.75
- Grilled asparagus, duck egg and truffle oil (v) … £9.25
- Spinach and ricotta crepe (v) … £9.75
- Macaroni cheese (v) … £9.95
- Salad of beetroot and mixed leaves with baked goats’ cheese (v) … £11.25
- Artichoke and Israeli couscous ragout (v) … £11.50
- Pousse spinach and cream cheese in flaky pastry finished with chervil butter (v) … £12.75
What I ate: ★★★★☆
- Grilled asparagus, duck egg and truffle oil (v) … £9.25 ★★☆☆☆
Though meant to be a classic, it was a tad underwhelming. Perhaps I’m not used to the asparagus-duck egg combo but the flavours did feel like they clashed more than harmonised. The truffle oil was perhaps a little too generous.
- Pousse spinach and cream cheese in flaky pastry finished with chervil butter (v) … £12.75 ★★★★★
Stunning. This dish oozed all the rich, hearty flavours you’d ever want from a French dish. Great presentation with the waiter elegantly pouring the chervil butter over and around the pastry to finish as promised.
- ‘Le Cheesecake’ compote de fruits (v) … £6.75 ★★★★★
A cheesecake to die for. Brilliantly soft and creamy without being sickly sweet. The base crumbled well. The compote was sufficiently sour to give that tangy counterpoint to the cake. Very generous portion so feel free to share, or not.
Total cost: £32.34 (incl. 12.5% service charge)
Where to go after:
- West End Theatre – being in the heart of Piccadilly Circus you’ll find Book of Mormon, Phantom of the Opera and Aladdin among many others. Bookings essential.
- The Piano Bar – perfect for that post-meal wind-down with jazz to soothe the senses.
- St James’ Park – perfect place for a post-meal stroll during the summer, where you’ll see the locals perched on the grass long into the night.
Veggie verdict: ★★★★☆