Kate was coming to stay. I asked her if there was anything in particular that she wanted to do, and she said eat and see me.
Both of these things I could do.
She is from, and still lives in, Stoke-on-Trent, a place where the restaurant scene is so advanced that their newly-opening Pizza Express made the news. As long as it wasn’t Italian or English, she said, she would be happy.
Brasserie Zédel came to my attention in Time Out, where its boeuf bourguignon was listed as one of the best comfort foods in London. I suggested this to Kate and she agreed.
It is located on a backstreet near Piccadilly Circus. There are doormen in fancy coats, a grand entrance, a grand staircase, a grand hallway, and a grand dining room.
“We definitely aren’t in Stoke anymore.”
I was never in Stoke, Kate. Don’t speak on my behalf.
It is a beautiful art deco building, which Kate particularly took to as the 1920s is her favourite time period. She is a history teacher, which makes it slightly less strange that she would mention this in day-to-day conversation. And at least she picked a time period that had indoor plumbing. Those who romanticise the Tudor period haven’t thought it through fully.
A jazz band played in the background.
It was quite loud, but more of an exciting loud of being in a big city – interesting conversation punctuated by loud music (I didn’t hear any conversations necessarily, but it is nice to presume) – that made it an enjoyable place to be rather than a chore. I felt pleased with myself that I managed to find a place that was both fancy and affordable.
Bread came. Neither of us ate the bread. We were once stung in Crete when they brought bread (how nice!) then proceeded to charge us €1 per semi-stale roll (the nerve!).
We both went for the boeuf bourguignon. I thought about going for the coq au vin so that we could share our food, but my heart was on le boeuf, and I tend not to order chicken at restaurants, which I put down as a symptom of having worked at Nando’s.
It doesn’t say that it comes with pommes puree on the menu, but the waitress thankfully checked me before I (partially) wrecked me (wallet) and tried to order it as a side.
The lighting wasn’t great for pictures, but was lovely for ambiance. Again, how nice to be in a big city! We arrived at 9:40 and they dimmed the lights at about 10pm, in case you liked noting that sort of thing.
It is an almost perfect winter dish. I should learn to cook it. My step-dad, who is French, says that it is quite simple, but his simple is my calculus.
When I moved to London briefly two years ago, one of the girls that I worked with asked if I had ever been to Brasserie Zédel, a fact that I only remembered on reading the Time Out article. She said that they do very good desserts at quite reasonable prices. She was mildly pompous so I expected that her “reasonable price” would be my “retirement fund”, but in this case she was right.
I went for the tart au citron, Kate for the creme brulee (to hell with proper accenting).
Dessert came. The woman at the table next to me asked what I had. I told her. She paid her bill and left. I’d like to think that she returned at a later date to sample the tart. Tart on tart on tart.
The recommendation was correct. The lemon tart was light, refreshing and with the pastry made just right. The perfect palate cleanser after a heavy meal.
Kate cracker her creme brulee (THWPA), took a bite and made a face.
We swapped desserts.
I have never liked creme brulee, but clearly I have never had a good one. Kate said it was the best she had ever tasted, then proceeded to not be able to finish it as it was too sweet and large. It was a very generous creme brulee. I finished both desserts.
We continued to talk til 12:30 then experienced the wonders of London at night by crossing the most disappointing of the central bridges (Westminster).
The toilets, along with the rest of the decor, were plush.
An endearing collision of high class surroundings, rustic food, phenomenal desserts, and good value.