Monday, 22 October 2012

Disiac, Soho

Disiac Restaurant, 6 Greek Street, Soho, London
New restaurants open in London at such a whirlwind rate that, if it's not your actual job to do so, it's almost impossible to keep up. I subscribe - as should you, if you have any interest in these things - to Catherine and Gavin Hanly's definitive Hot Dinners e-newsletter, and keep an eye on, among others, the excellent blog of lifestyle concierge company Bon Vivant, but very often even reasonably high-profile openings pass me by.

All this having been said, I was still surprised when a friend who has nothing to do with restaurants professionally or otherwise raved to me about Soho newcomer Disiac, because not only had I not heard about it, apparently no-one else had either - not the newsletters, nor in my 'Food People' column on Twitter, nor even a couple of real-life restaurant critics I asked.

You will, I think, be hearing rather a lot more about Disiac before long however, because having gone along to try it for myself I reckon it's going to be very popular indeed. For one thing it's an absolutely gorgeous little place, with a minimal but luxurious monochrome interior and a variety of flexible dining spaces - see-and-be-seen window seats, tucked-away booths or around the central raw bar and open kitchen. For another, the bar turns out some extremely good - and potent - cocktails at £9 a pop from opening o'clock until gone midnight.

Strozzapretti pasta at Disiac, London
But the real excitement at Disiac lies in the fantastic food, some of the best I've had anywhere in a while. Executive chef Paolo Palmisano and head chef Michele de Rosa (ex-Cecconi's) have put together a mostly Italian menu, divided simply into Starters, Fish & Meat and Pasta & Risotti, all made to order.

My date - rising star of fashion illustration Joe Larkowsky - and I started with some ace bruschetta followed by a beautifully oozing Pugliese burrata, simply drizzled in some very good Spanish olive oil. That same oil, with the addition of just a little lemon and parsley, was used to sauté fat mussels, the resulting rich emulsion coating the bivalves like butter.

A plateau de fruit de mer was for its £32 price - all-in, not per person - absolutely huge and especially generous considering it included half a grilled lobster and a few Colchester rock oysters alongside super-fresh, super-tasty mussels, clams and langoustines, pleasingly chewy chilli-flecked razor clams and sweet, bright Mediterranean prawns. We finished off with two incredible pasta dishes, strozzapretti - thick hand-rolled whorls - tossed with courgettes, cherry tomatoes, bitter wilted radicchio and tangy dolcelatte, and the classic Neapolitan scialatelli alle vongole, short cables of pasta dotted with dinky palourde clams.

The forty-five bin wine-list is strong on champagne and sparklers - accounting for a third of the list - and elsewhere offers an interesting selection of all-Old World whites, reds and rosés, none marked up by more than about 100% on the retail price meaning there are some bargains to be had. A crisp, green Tramin Pinot Bianco was a good match both for the salinity of our seafood and the bigger flavours of the pasta.

Plateau de fruits de mer at Disiac, Soho
So great food, fair pricing, cracking cocktails and a smart space; what's not to love? Nothing that I can see, although Disiac will face some challenges to really establish itself and do as well as I hope it will. Firstly, the slick interior is so the opposite of the current ubiquitous bare brick/exposed lightbulbs fashion that trendier restaurant collectors might unfairly give it a wide berth. 

Also the changing roster of events - a DJ some nights, live jazz others - could put off punters who prefer consistency over variety. Not me, though; I intend to go back, and often, to enjoy more of the brilliance Joe and I experienced on this first night, and suggest that you do too. 

Disiac, ladies and gentlemen - unusually, you heard it here first.

Disiac, 6 Greek Street, London W1D 4ED Tel: 020 7734 3888

Disiac on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Posted by +Hugh Wright

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Brasserie Zédel

Entrance to Brasserie Zedel on Sherwood Street
Anyone who, like me, was living in London in the 1990s will remember Atlantic Bar & Grill. Owned by the then-coolest cat in town, Oliver Peyton - the Russell Norman of his day, now better known for his role as a judge on Great British Menu - Atlantic, with its snappy bouncers and seemingly untraversable velvet rope, was for a time at least the place to see and be seen, if only you could get in.

It's rather poetic then that in its new incarnation as Brasserie Zédel, what was once London's most exclusive venue is now among its most democratic, offering all-day dining at extremely accessible prices to a staggering 240 covers at a time. Reservations are taken (fancy!) but a substantial proportion of tables are kept for walk-ins meaning that, unlike Atlantic, any and everyone is able to get in.

And get in they must if Rex Restaurant Associates, the Chris Corbin and Jeremy King-helmed investment vehicle behind Zédel  is to make back the fortune that must have been spent on the decor, one of London's most jaw-dropping rooms by a country mile. Shayne Brady, the impishly-handsome head designer at David Collins Studio has turned what was a dark and imposing subterranean space into a light, even dazzling room with acres of pink-hued marble, brass railings and real gold leaf on the capitals atop the room's mighty columns.

Brasserie Zedel's beautiful interior designed by David Collins Studio
As for the pricing, much has been made of how cheap many dishes on Brasserie Zédel's all-French menu are - not least the soupe du jour at a no-it-can't-be £2.25 - but it's not necessarily a cheap restaurant; on my most recent visit, one of several since it opened, four of us clocked up a bill of about £40 a head once a couple of decent bottles of wine had been added to the mix. Rather, it is one offering value for money almost unheard of not just in London's West End but just about anywhere.

Starters start with that soup and peak at £7.75; particularly brilliant are the crème Dubarry - a thick cream of cauliflower soup - and the soupe de poissons at £4.75, almost as good as The Ivy's at two-thirds of the price. Salads, too, impress, particularly endive and roquefort which happily marries the bitterness of chicory to the saltiness of blue cheese.

Of the main courses, even the simplest steak haché - £7.50 on its own or available as part of the £8.75 for two courses or £11.25 for three prix-fixe - is noteworthy, using good beef and enlivened by a perky sauce au poivre. The vast choucroute Alsacienne, £11.75 and a meal in itself, is as delicious a mountain of pickled cabbage and pork as you'll ever find.  

Neon signs point the way to Brasserie Zedel
Desserts continue the theme of being far better than one would expect for the price. I simply can't fault the ile flottante - £2.75! - and even the café gourmand with the prix-fixe is a generous serve, three mini pastries with a cafetiere of decent filter coffee. There's also all manner of ice-cream coupes, sorbets, tarts and cakes, all for under a fiver.

In a restaurant of this size, serving this many people, choreographing service is bound to be a challenge and to date my only real gripes with Brasserie 
Zédel have been around this. Firstly, wherever the kitchen is in this behemoth of a building, it is clearly too far from the dining room to ensure that food arrives piping hot; nothing I have eaten has been much hotter than tepid although it's tasted none the worse for that. 

Also, in the time it takes for plates to arrive at the tables, sauces can congeal; a quick whisk with a fork at the service station before presentation would help no end. Worst of all, on my most recent visit our main courses arrived before we had even finished our starters and rather than being taken away, they were served while one of our party raced under pressure to finish her soup, which is a serious no-no in my book. So it's not perfect, but it's still early days for Brasserie Zédel and with luck and a little more time these glitches should iron out. 

The art deco Bar Americain at Brasserie Zedel

Everything else - the reasonably-priced wine list, the perfect classic cocktails being served in the beautiful Art Deco Bar Americain, the camp coral pink napkins one of which, mea culpa, found its way into my handbag - make this easily one of the most exciting new openings in London this year.

As I write, reservations have just opened for Corbin & King's next project, Cafe Colbert on Sloane Square; with its SW1 location and aristocratic landlord it is unlikely that it will be as democratic as Brasserie 
Zédel.  No matter; for here is a restaurant that in both pricing and geography is truly accessible to anyone - and not a velvet rope in sight.

Brasserie Zédel, 20 Sherwood Street, London W1F 7ED Tel: 020 7734 4888

Brasserie Zedel on Urbanspoon 

Square Meal 


Posted by +Hugh Wright
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