The former Oriel (RIP) site on Sloane Square, relaunched by ‘the Wolseley boys’ as an immediately-successful Gallic brasserie of a high standard; service, though, was decidedly slow, on our visit a few weeks after opening.
Earl Cadogan does not believe in ‘absentee’ landlord-ism. Oriel, the former occupant of this prominent Sloane Square site, had the temerity to serve his lordship a below-par meal’ and, when the lease came up for review, was duly given marching orders.
And so it was that the word went out throughout restaurant-land that one of the peachiest sites in Christendom was up for grabs. Given the starting point for the process, it was perhaps inevitable that it would end with the appointment of London’s ‘gentlemen-restaurateurs’ – Chris Corbin and Jeremy King – to take the site over.
(It is pure conjecture, but we like to think the Earl may have excluded Richard Caring from the running on suspicion of having ‘bought his own furniture’ – can it be coincidence that a new branch of Côte has recently sprung up, just across the square?)
Corbin and King have turned the site into perhaps London’s most convincing pastiche of a Parisian local brasserie, with the different rooms carefully designed to look dissimilar, as if the premises had accreted over the years, à la française, rather than being created as a whole.
Why go to all this trouble, though, if you’re not going to throw in a bit of ‘distress’ (à la Balthazar, NYC)? The resulting impression is all too smart – an impression abetted by all-enveloping linen tablecloths, which are ridiculously grand for a brasserie.
This flummery, though, does nothing to keep the noise levels within reasonable bounds – we suspect the quite mature and traditional crowd the place attracts (think Sloane Rangers, thirty years on) would mostly appreciate being able to talk across a table. We gave up trying.
The service isn’t quite there yet either. It is often observed that it is odd that Corbin and King – who have a deserved reputation for the level of service their restaurants ultimately attain – never quite seem to hit the ground running, and this was certainly the case on our visit (even though it was a few weeks after opening). Despite the legions of helpful, charming and smartly turned-out staff, each stage of our simple cold supper took an age to come, which is just what you don’t want in a local brasserie.
When it finally came, though, our simple meal was very good. The bread batons were well up to group standards, and such classics as prawn cocktail, oysters (rather small, number 4s?), and salads of endive and Roquefort, and chicken, were all very well done and elegantly presented.
It would be fair to say, though, that prices give nothing away. His lordship, we suspect, won’t mind about that.