In a hugely handy St James’s location, a Gallic brasserie where the cooking – if not, necessarily, the service – seems to be flourishing under the new independent ownership.
Our lunchtime visit to this St James’s brasserie – recently bought out by the on-site management – offered an interesting opportunity for a comparison with a rather similar sort of meal in Paris, home of cuisine, just three days before.
The earlier lunch was at Le Vaudeville, a handy classic brasserie at 29 rue Vivienne. Opposite La Bourse, it doesn’t have such a smart address as the London restaurant (which is a couple of doors from White’s club), but it makes up for it with an impressive period interior.
In Paris, we’d very much enjoyed our two-course set lunch (Eur 20, £18). At current exchange rates, this is a little more than the equivalent meal in St James’s (£15.50, with service), but very much ‘in the same ballpark’ – with modest wine, somewhere around £50-£55 for two.
Given the general similarities – of smartness/location, and pricing – what was striking about the St James’s meal was how similar the high quality of the cooking was to what we had enjoyed in Paris.
A creamy pumpkin soup had a real depth of flavour, and a guest described his starter of pork belly with wild mushrooms in a shellfish sauce as simply ‘magnifique‘. Even the baguette – in London, generally something of a Harden’s bugbear – was good.
Our guest was similarly complimentary about the main dish of of cod and cockles, which struck us, spiritually speaking, as a total ‘ringer’ for the plat principal much enjoyed just three days before in the City of Light.
Only service was not really on a par in the two cities. The charm of the Parisian garÃ§ons (even though employed by a ‘big bad group’, Flo) considerably outshone that of their le-patron-mange-ici London equivalents.
Even with this undoubted (and inexplicable) flaw, however, it was the similarity of high standards at the two ends of the Eurostar line which was much more striking that the differences. At current exchange rates, the idea that you get better value in Paris can now, it appears, safely be consigned to the history books.