Professional, but vast, soulless and expensive, Gordon Ramsay’s grand brasserie, in a shopping mall by St Paul’s, seemed to us to exert an appeal only discernible by those lucky enough to have large expense accounts.
o, let’s get the food out of the way. On our visit, the realisation of the menu at this latest addition to the Gordon Ramsay empire was almost invariably good. Indeed, it was often impressive.
Bread rolls were notably crisp and full of taste, and came with flavourful butter too. A Jerusalem artichoke soup was as rich and mouth-filling as could be, and main course fish dishes well timed, and nicely plated up, in a rather matter-of-fact sort of way. A chickpea side salad, said a foodie companion, even rose to the heights of “interesting”. Puddings – a pineapple carpaccio with sorbet, and a banana cake – were a comforting triumph. Even the coffee was good.
There was, then, nothing to complain about on the food front at all. Nor should there have been. We'd chosen pretty economically, and the reckoning – with one non-alcoholic cocktail between us plus just a glass of house wine apiece – was £110. If we’d chosen meatier options and opted to share a bottle of non-house wine, it could very have easily been £160 for two.
So how does this square with Gordon’s launch-babble about this place being pitched at the ‘ordinary City worker’. Only, it seems, in some parallel universe, as the prices here turn out to be pitched at pretty much the same level as, say, the Savoy Grill (prop. Gordon Ramsay).
As some sage once observed, ‘it’s not just about the food’, so let’s do a bit of an overall compare-and-contrast exercise between the two properties. The Savoy Grill has tablecloths, intimacy, service which engages at the human level, a five star hotel attached, a fantastic location, great history, an interestingly mixed clientele, and one of London’s best Art Deco interiors.
Bread Street, on the other hand, is a vast and lofty shopping mall restaurant got up with old school chairs, huge and rather scarily distressed mirrors (think Rocky Horror), many Anglepoise lamps, and a crowd of fellow lunchers who demonstrate the worker bee uniformity you'd expect.
The room has admittedly been quite nicely decked out, but there’s only so much you can do with an aircraft hangar lost in an obscure corner of a financial district shopping mall. (And there isn’t even the spectacular St Paul’s view some diners get at Jamie’s place, next door.) So how come it costs as much to eat here as at the Savoy?
Some reviews, incidentally, do appear to have bought the line that the interior is so cool that visitors almost get the feeling that Bread Street might really be some groovy East End post-industrial space. Honestly? To anyone who has formed that view, we can only say one thing: get out more.