Harden's survey result
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“Not as grand as its sibling The Wolseley”, Corbin & King’s “glamorous” outpost on Aldwych “is in a similar vein, but feels less frantic”, and in its own more “intimate” way is “one of the classiest rooms in town”. “The cooking, in an Austrian bent, is OK without being fantastic”, majoring in “jolly gigantic schnitzel” and other “stodgy” (slightly “complacent and expensive”) fare. As with its Piccadilly stablemate, breakfast here is a prime strength – “a very civilised way to start the day” – and its “well-spaced”, comfortable and “old-fashioned” style similarly makes it a major business favourite, being “smart enough to impress, without being overbearing”. It’s “brilliantly convenient for pre-theatre too.” Next door, its spin-off, ‘The Counter’, “serves a great coffee and the pastries are to die for!”
Like its sibling, The Wolseley, Corbin & King’s “bustling and luxurious” venue on Aldwych “gives a very good impression of a middle-European café in the grand style”, and makes a supremely business-friendly choice. But aside from “wonderful old-school breakfasts” and “lovely afternoon teas”, the somewhat “unimaginative” cooking is “only OK for the price”, and has seemed even more “ordinary” of late. Next door, ‘The Counter’ is “The Delaunay’s little brother, serving light meals, coffee and cakes”.
“Less hectic than the Wolseley but with all the good bits” – Corbin & King’s “so-very-civilised” three-year-old, on the fringe of Covent Garden, is a less showy, more “luxurious” alternative to its bigger stablemate (and likewise “pitch perfect” for business). The mitteleuropean cooking “isn’t really the point”, but it’s usually highly “satisfactory” (in particular the “utterly fab” breakfasts and “most delicious afternoon teas”).
“Wolesley-lite!”; Corbin & King’s “classic, European grand café”, on the edge of Covent Garden, is “more intimate” than its sibling, but otherwise a chip off the old block – the “classy”, “feel-good” ambience, and “reliable” (if “slightly ersatz”) Austrian cuisine make it “a wow for business”, especially at breakfast.
The Delaunay Restaurant Diner Reviews
"Noisy and busy with lots of buzz - Not cheap but lovey fake Austro-Hungarian decor"
"This lovely brasserie has the standard Corbyn formula but it works - warm welcome, a walk in table can always be found, high quality service with the maitre d walking the floor at intervals, good oysters (but pricey at £.25 a pop) excellent schnitzel and sausages, my kedgeree was a bit disappointing and attracted the attention of the maitre d, wine is pricey and it's hard to exit with a bill of less than £75 a head but it's a good experience."
The Delaunay WC2
From Corbin and King, a swish, Midtown brasserie, which has the hallmarks of an instant in-crowd classic, even if its looks are less stunning than its stablemate, the Wolseley.
What's in a name? Restaurant-maesters, Corbin & King's new Aldwych opening apparently follows in the footsteps of a turn-of-the century Gallic automobile marque (Delaunay-Belleville).
But whereas the moniker of their other car-brand - the Wolseley - exudes British-ness and evokes jovial Woosteresque japes, this new sibling (with a 'The' not a 'La') sounds more like a runabout for some Rockerfeller-era steel magnate.
And that's how it looks too: with its deep wood panelling, dark leather banquettes (so comfy!), marbled floor and subdued lighting, it would look more at home in some plush corner of Manhattan than in any Parisian arrondissement, however posh. It also seems instantly popular with the kind of besuited crowd who over lunch discuss pushing around companies with the same ease that they handle their knives and forks.
Hang on, though. The Wolseley this place certainly isn't - there's no exhilarating Edwardian architecture here. The ceiling's a bit low, and the proportions are a bit boxy. And the restrained style may strike some as simply unimaginative.
Our charming waitress politely enquired if we'd like to order. After a few fobbings off, the enquiries came with a fair amount of steely implication that it was now time to stop messing about. A 12.15 table can, after all, be turned at least once more during the lunch service...
The menu is very broad, and the mittel-European shtick (sorry 'Café in the Grand European Tradition') with which The Wolseley was launched is ladled on thicker here. Wiener or Schnitzel anyone? There's crustacea, caviar, savouries, sandwiches, plats du jour: and that's just from the all-day a la carte menu! (with separate menus for breakfast, afternoon tea and brunch).
Despite our waitress's impatience, our starters didn't arrive with undue haste. Chopped chicken salad with soft herbs (£9.50) was beautifully perky and fresh - a better choice than the baked romano pepper with spiced aubergine (£7.50), which resembled an OK result at a veggie friend's house.
It seemed rude not to have a schnitzel. It was warming, hearty, perfectly well made, but perhaps a reminder of why Austrian cuisine has failed to make waves globally: much of the interest came from the yummy accompaniment of sprouts with a creamy chestnut sauce. The calf's liver at £19.75 went down fine, but with little comment.
Sheiterhaufen (£7.50) with Calvados sauce was chosen largely for its splendid name, and was translated for us as, 'like bread 'n' butter pudding'. Well sort of. Like the schnitzel it was crafted with care, deftly crisped, but veering towards the stodgy end of expectations.
Anything opened by Corbin & King suffers under the burden of humungous expectations, and to find a newcomer that looks so immaculately crafted and seemingly self-assured so soon after opening must be counted as another success for this dynamic duo. And its position, next to what was for many years 'Bank' is a reminder of the steady demand in 'Mid-town' (between Theatreland and the City) for a swish, professional, all-hours brasserie that does a mean power breakfast.
Anyone expecting evident culinary fireworks or architectural electricity, however, might consider looking elsewhere though. The diecast of this metropolitan motor is so classic that excitement-hungry souls might find its handling a tad staid. The fast crowd, though, may come to adore it all the same.
55 Aldwych, London, WC2B 4BB
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Last orders: midnight, Sun 11 pm