On the former South Kensington site of Lundum’s, an ambitious Gallic newcomer from a Lyonnais chef (Jean-Christophe Ansanay-Alex) of considerable repute; on our visit, food that was somewhat below expectation formed part of an experience which, taken as a whole, was rather bizarre.

The French and the English are never going to understand each other. As you approach the attractive South Kensington premises of this ambitious new French arrival, the first thing you see, fluttering about the door, is little flags – just the sort of thing you might expect outside a bistro in some Burgundian backwater.

So this must be a pretty naff establishment, right? Well, that’s certainly not the aim. They’ve spent an awful lot of money on it, and the person who designed it clearly thought it was the last word in chic. But shag-pile carpet – even if it’s black – is never chic. TV screens showing chefs at work in the kitchen are never chic. Handbasins where the water erupts from the plughole – and lit in glorious Technicolor – are never chic. The list of misguided design features is endless. And the result? Well, just odd. Not actively unpleasant – apart from the monstrously droning air conditioning above one’s head – but certainly odd.

The staff, initially at least, did nothing to sooth the feelings of dislocation your (sole) reviewer felt in this bizarre environment. Initially, indeed, they did nothing at all. We rather wondered if this was the only restaurant in the world with Michelin pretensions where you actually have to ask for a menu. One did eventually arrive. It was fortunate, however, that we knew to ask about the set lunch menu (which doesn’t actually seem to have any existence outside the mind of the maître d’, £30) and, more particularly, the vin-compris menu for £12 more. A ‘glass of champagne’, though, added £18 on top. Thereafter service was perfectly pleasant, but – is this just a culture difference? – never really made any real effort to engage, to start to make the experience potentially more than the sum of its parts.

As the food here is by Jean-Christophe Ansanay-Alex – who runs a two Michelin star restaurant in Lyons – it is the cooking which should be the big story here. It has already inspired strangely opposed critical opinions from those who ought to know. We only had the set lunch, but – on the basis of this admittedly small sample – we’d have to say that we’re with the doubters.

The key test, in this sort of establishment is, in the last analysis, pretty simple: are there any wows? For us, there were not. Bread was very good, but its style – loaves brown and white – was hardly ambitious. A morel cappuccino was good, but without having an enormous depth of flavour to compensate for the small quantity (a breakfast cup) in which was served. A main course of trout grénobloise was frankly pretty dull – by the end, it was difficult to discern any real taste in the fish at all. The pudding – essentially fruit and pastry – was enjoyable without particularly impressing with either its appearance or its taste. Truffles were very good indeed, but the coffee was poor. The almost invariable feeling throughout the whole meal was: so what?

And so we departed into the South Kensington sunshine, and felt some sort of re-connection with reality’ and, frankly, in rather a good way too.

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