Very large, light and airy, a first-floor Gallic brasserie, within Spitalfields Market; the food is fine and the wine list impressive, but prices are quite high, and the formula doesn’t really ‘click’.
ur quest for a proper Gallic brasserie in London goes on. In fact, this new attempt at the genre – of which we had such high hopes – is potentially a real turkey.
First it has a disastrous first-floor location, within a renovated part of the (covered) Spitalfields Market. Only the ‘outside’ tables, on the balcony, are ever going to advertise to passers-by that there’s an eating place up those rather uninspiring metal steps at all. This may be why, on our early-days Monday lunchtime visit, there were only ever three tables occupied (although the staff did say they had been busy over the weekend).
Another reason for the low turnout may have been that would-be diners didn’t want to spend all afternoon on a basic brasserie meal. Brasseries are partly about jollity and speed. We know that empty restaurants are depressing for the staff too, but our simple lunch came at an escargot’s pace. (What’s the possible excuse for a long wait for a basic salad, say, or the terrine of the day?)
And then there’s the décor. A proper brasserie should have an architectural point, and ideally should be a world in itself, enveloping you, and distancing you from the cares of the world. Here, we have a large space where the walls are made largely of glass. However authentic such details as the bentwood chairs and a tiled floor may be, they do not – in such a large and airy space – succeed in creating anything resembling atmosphere.
It probably goes without saying after all these negatives that the shame of it all is that the menu is appropriately long and essentially traditional, and the food is broadly OK. Bread, admittedly, was dire – London’s inability to produce a decent baguette knows no bounds – but everything else was at least competent. A good choice of oysters was offered, and properly presented. This success, however, was somewhat undercut by presenting only shallot vinegar as an accompaniment, when a bit of rye bread is always welcome. The best dish was a très correct dessert of oeufs à la neige.
The wine list is very extensive, but prices, especially by the glass, are largely pitched above the level of easy affordability which – surely? – is what a brasserie is supposed to be about.
After all, isn’t there supposed to be some sort of recession on?