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


  1. It's the nicest-looking room in London isn't it? And a lovely quiet hum as all the wait staff zip around. Keep meaning to take people there just so they can laugh at the prices as well as enjoy the food...

  2. It's certainly one of them, Criterion is pretty jaw-dropping too:

    Definitely one for taking friends to, I love that it's affordable for just about anyone but still feels like such a treat!

  3. I loved Zedel - the room is incredible, and the bar is beautiful too - very 20s. Took an American relative over from Chicago, no slouch in the beautiful restaurant front that city, and he was v.impressed.

  4. Based on your rousing endorsement had a terrific girl's night out last week. The bar is glorious and the food terrific value.

  5. Oh I'm so pleased! Such a great spot for a fun evening with friends, I'm glad you and the girls enjoyed it.

  6. I went a few weeks ago and thought it was really great, particularly for the price! And, like all their restaurants, there is a separate vegetarian menu if you ask. I did find the service a little bit slow though, probably the only downside to having such a massive dining room.

  7. Yes funny how for some the service is too slow, for others too quick, but I do know from impeccable sources that they're working hard to iron these glitches out. Still, as you've found, it's not bad enough to spoil an absolutely cracking addition to the London restaurant scene!

  8. I shall have to try it again once it's all functioning to our exacting standards...

  9. Anthony Charnley5 November 2012 at 17:59

    Just for the record - the basement interiors (including the basement lobby) are the reasons for the building's Grade 2 Listed status, having been either designed or remodelled by the celebrated Art Deco designer Oliver Bernard in 1935. This was a painstaking restoration, the vision of The Crown Estate, carried out by Donald Insall Associates with Dixon Jones, with David Collins handling the restaurant fitting out.

  10. I loved Zedel - the room is incredible, and the bar is beautiful too - very 20s. Took an American relative over from Chicago, no slouch in the beautiful restaurant front that city, and he was v.impressed.


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