Zedel – An Entertaining Typical French Food Lovers’ Find
With Christmas around the corner;there is no better time to try an alternative to turkey, and celebrate in a grand and refined setting. So many of London’s much loved dining and night spots have now been replaced – so its with a pang of nostalgia to re-visit a longstanding dining spot in an opulent setting, with a salacious menu to match that has stayed firmly and loyally placed. In the heart of London’s theatre and clubland; Brasserie Zedel is a stylish and original ‘grande brasserie’ that is elegant, without being haughty. It also won’t leave you with that feeling you need more in your stomach, much less your bank account.
It has stayed true to its origins; beginning life as a grand hotel in 1915; with the aim of providing affordable luxury to the less affluent classes. It also stands as an imposing testimony to the original art deco style designed by the renowned architect Oliver Percy Bernard OBE; who was responsible for re-creating the hotel’s original Beaux Arts features in the 1930’s.
Step forward 30 years; the building had fallen on hard times; and was showing signs of dilapidation, so a company called Crown Estates was commissioned to re-design the original 1930’s art deco interiors. Such was the success of the re-design, that Architecture Today magazine described it as “the best and most authentic series of 1930’s interiors in this country”.
You can really make an entrance here. Whilst not as salubrious as the Wolseley; with whom its shares its’ owners, it strives to offer a timeless service orientated approach and has a really original appeal. The doors are thrown open for you by top hat and tail staff; and you are directed to whether you want to take a seat in the American Bar or to your table in the opulency of the main dining room; with its ornate high ceilings and marble columns typifying its 1930’s art deco origins.
Today, Zedel gives the impression of being a private member’s club, with its’ roped entrance and top hat and tail staff which stand dutifully beside it. However, whilst it is an institution of sorts; you are not required to be a member or be on any guest list to enter, so fear not. Once inside, you have a choice of two adjacent, yet very different rooms; with completely contrasting atmospheres.
The American bar provides a dimly lit; and more discreet drinking space; where you can pose in a sophisticated area and entertain a large choice of cocktails that have been specifically curated to represent 1920’s and 30’s America. It harbours a distinctly theatrical mood, and you imagine Zelda from the Great Gatsby being a loyal favourite. It is simply a walk-in bar and sitting space, that doesn’t take advance reservations.
The main ‘grande brasserie’ is a bustling, warmly lit, lively and expansive space; with a grand and opulent backdrop to it. It’s refined and plush, with high cornice and gold leaf encrusted curved ceilings, coupled with statuesque art deco marble columns. The richness of the theme extends to the plush and comforting warmth added by the dark red velour seating, which gives it an almost regal edge. Whilst Zedel is an elegant choice for a unique and memorable experience; it also offers something more; which hotel dining often falls short with. It provides comforting food that is good for the soul.
The dishes are bursting with French flavours and rustic, rather than taking on a more refined guise. You really feel as if you are getting your money’s worth, rather than just a nod to a chef’s talent in showcasing how something has been constructed to look different and artistic. You can go to town on a truly decadent and substantial Alsacienne charcuterie and ‘choucroute’- which is on a par with the Wolseley, for its succulent and mouthwatering assortment, or go full out on a South of France speciality ‘cassoulet de confit de canard’, a typical regional dish of roasted duck on a bed of white beans and sausage, swimming in a delicious sauce. Mains start at £23.00 but stretch as far out as £37.00 if you want chateaubriand to share; which realistically is the case for a lot of good restaurants.
Front of house is exceptional here in terms of making you welcome, but once at the table its a different story. There is a very obvious hierarchy in the hospitality team and they seem to be forever busy but not as attentive to what should be going on with the tables in terms of where you are at with your meal. This could be however; due to the fact that the space is quite expansive, and on our visit, there were not enough waiting staff to cater to the 240 covers.
For starters my salade of chevre chaude was wolfed down on its bed of well dressed lettuce. It was good to have a tasty and flavoursome goats cheese, that was generously proportioned against a mix of varied lettuce types; and seasoned with a delious vinaigrette, instead of balsamic vinegar. My perfectly mixed steak tartare was fine and not too spicey but I was slightly taken aback that instead of tabasco – Lee and Perrins was brought to the table to add to it. Since this maybe not to all tastes-mine included, tabasco can be arranged.
But when I started to tuck into my main course of steak tartare with pommes frites and a salade verte – there was a rush to come over to try to whisk the table cloth away; whilst what I actually wanted was the wine list back. My companion was over an hour late; which was really why I could only entertain myself on listening to the band and people watch as well as enjoying a pichet of red wine. When she did finally arrive at 10.50pm and luckily so, since the kitchen takes orders up until 12am; she chose the not very adventurous sea bream. Understandably, having been touring the back streets of Soho in an attempt to find it she made her choice rapidly; and forewent a starter in the process. Luckily this was compensated by arriving in lightning speed, to more than make up for the fact that I was already at dessert stage in my meal.
This grand brasserie has carved out a longstanding niche for itself as a refined setting for an upmarket take on an authentic regional French bistro, with lots of choice. With all the ingredients for a good night out – its a step back into another era and lots of fun with its lively atmosphere as well. Whilst not as bon marche as its fans make out as the bill came to £143.00 for 2 with mid range wine, and my companion only had a main; it still comes to less than one of D and D London’s venues, which is comparable; Quaglinos. And its’ the selection of regional French dishes that are wholesome, hearty and satisfying, complemented by a complexed and varied wine list; that are the foundation of a night to remember for the right reasons. Once you factor in the exquisite setting and its’ central London location; it remains a sought after choice for dinner and elegant entertainment combined.
Brasserie Zedel is located at:
20 Sherwood Street
London W1F ZED