In the rag trade section of Fitzrovia, a large, stylish and cheerful brasserie whose compelling all-round formula is already packing ’em in.
Our first surprise on visiting this attractive-looking newcomer, was that, despite the name, it’s as proper a brasserie as you’ll find – a sort of younger and trendier Wolseley. What good news! Despite being ‘twinned’, via the Eurostar, with the greatest ‘brasserie city’ in the world, London still has few good examples of the breed, and we lag New York in that respect too. Spiritually, the newcomer is the real thing.
Second surprise? Beyond the basic concept – all-day options, slightly wacky style, flexibility of menu, variety of dining areas, and so on – there’s nothing obviously Gallic about the formula. And the third? Pace Observer columnist Jay Rayner’s recent views on the subject, New York is clearly the style beacon du jour for many of London’s restaurateurs, yet this place manages to avoid many of those Big Apple-style decorative flourishes which are fast becoming clichés.
The result is a palpable success, already pretty much mobbed, with a pretty young crowd from the nearby fashion and media businesses.
The wide-ranging menu encompasses everything from oysters (nicely presented) via a range of mainly Mediterranean small plates to Chateaubriand and fish ‘n’ chips.
There were no duds among the good range of dishes we sampled, and some of the small plates were really very good. The only pudding we tried, an old-fashioned crème caramel, was – at the risk of sounding like Michael Winner – historic.
If, overall, there was a reservation, it was that some of the portions are on the modest side, even for ‘small plates’. Indeed, we even found the modesty of some of the portions being explicitly used as a sales tool – ‘you may find you’ll want some vegetables with that main course! – and continual staff efforts to ‘up-sell’ became something of a leitmotif of our meal.
This is a shame, as in every other way the service was beyond reproach. We suspect this is a place to which punters will return sufficiently happily that efforts to maximise the revenue from any particular visit are as unnecessary as they are likely, in the longer run, to be counter-productive.