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Harden's survey result
“Top choice when meeting up is more important than the food!” – Richard Caring’s “brisk” modern brasseries are “a cut-above most other chains” and were once again the survey’s most-mentioned national multiple, on the strength of their “very convenient” and often picturesque locations; and an experience generally that’s “safe” and affordable (set menus in particular are very “competitively priced”). That said, even many of its legions of fans don’t suggest that their performance will set the world on fire: “menus offer a range of formulaic dishes, some more wowing than others”, with “basic options such as steak-frites” or burger often touted as the best of the “rather unadventurous” selection. “Service can vary” but usually “problems are swiftly resolved” and staff keep things “speedy” enough.
These “accurate imitations of a well-run French brasserie” have become the survey’s most-mentioned chain, on the strength of the huge army of fans who find them an “always-dependable” standby. The “perfectly acceptable” food “is quite good when you factor in the price”: “stick to their basic menus and you get a quite a good-value meal (although stray onto the more expensive dishes and you are better off going elsewhere)”. The wide range of options – including breakfast and prix-fixe pre-theatre – means there’s “plenty of choice for different appetites”. Unlike some chains there’s no effort to make outlets individual: “every branch is cut from the same cloth, but that’s no bad thing”.
“You know what you’re going to get” from this ubiquitous French brasserie chain: a formula that’s “classier than Café Rouge’s”, and whose “easy and convenient, if uninspiring” virtues nowadays make it the survey’s most-mentioned multiple. The “classic bistro fare” is “formulaic but edible” (steak-frites is a popular choice) and while service is “hit or miss” and conditions often “noisy”, the “sensible pricing” especially of lunch or pre-theatre deals underpins its massive popularity.
“As a useful port of call”, these “safe” all-day French brasseries remain immensely popular, especially for their “bargain set lunch”, and pre-theatre deals. However, even many fans would concede that the “straightforward” fare is “solid but unspectacular”.