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Le Café Anglais W2
A grand brasserie broadly similar in scale (170 seats) to the Wolseley; on our early-days visit, the food and service of this Bayswater newcomer were rather superior to that you would expect in Piccadilly - the location, however, is obviously convenient only for Bayswater shoppers and residents.
November 2007 - the month in which in became apparent that the Wolseley has achieved turnover of more than £10m annually - seems to be an auspicious time to launch a grand brasserie. The advantages, however, which have propelled the Piccadilly grand café to what may well be London's largest restaurant turnover include superb architecture, a location next to a byword-hotel (the Ritz) and traffic at all hours (from hedge-fund breakfasts to post-theatre suppers).
The Bayswater newcomer, - however admirable - shares none of these advantages. It is hidden away on a second floor site in the former Whiteley's department store (part of an initiative to 'raise the tone' there). On the former site of a McDonald's. it is certainly not in an 'obvious' location (although it does have its own, discreet, lift entrance) and the only natural sources of traffic seem to be Bayswater residents and Queensway shoppers.
Only on the architectural front could there be said to be any sort of comparison with the Wolsleley. With 170 seats, the room has broadly similar capacity. It is also lofty and handsomely proportioned, with large leaded windows, with big and boxy light fittings presumably supposed to evoke the likes of La Coupole, in Paris. The floor is carpeted, though. This is very sensible on the noise front, but it rarely does much for the atmosphere. Waiting for our guest, we found the well-spaced setting - with the roar of the air-conditioning - curiously unrelaxing. And when he arrived, we could not help noticing that one of the key basics of good restaurant design had been overlooked - sit on a banquette only if you want to be looked down on by those who have bagged chairs.
But enough carping. The key point about this bright and already-busy brasserie is that the food is invariably good, and sometimes very good - all the more of an achievement, as the menu is large and quite diverse. We particularly enjoyed the hors d'oeuvres (£3 each), which included mortadella with celeriac remoulade, and a particularly tasty Parmesan 'custard' and very elegant (almost Melba-style) toast. For your main course, you could have quite grand brasserie fare Ã la franÃ§aise - brill Ã la Dugléré was pretty good - or perhaps the house-speciality rôtisserie chicken, which is very reasonably priced. Puddings - whether a selection of ice creams or an impressive chocolate souffle - are good too. There is also a decent wine selection (especially for those willing to spend £25+ a bottle).
Not exactly impeded by the fact that the chef is Rowley Leigh - the chef who established the now near-legendary Kensington Place - the Café seems to have got off to a great start in the popularity stakes. No grounds for complacency, though - if this place doesn't create and maintain a real reputation as a 'value' proposition, it's difficult to see how they're ever going to keep it full.
8 Porchester Gdns, London, W2 4DB
Last orders: 10.30 pm, Fri & Sat 11 pm, Sun 10 pm