“Ah, l’odeur inconfondable du garlic!” Entering Brasserie Zédel is like being smacked in the face by a baguette-wielding, breton jumper-wearing stereotype hawking garlic around the Tour de France. It’s Art Deco, it’s bustling, it’s as close to Paris as you can feel without setting foot on Eurostar. It serves celeriac remoulade and grated carrot salads as starters – this is retro like you haven’t seen since spam fritters made a gourmet comeback.
I have been coming here regularly since it opened. A go-to, ever excellent wow factor venue. In fact, this review has been sitting in my drafts since my first visit in 2012. I was spurred by Grace Dent’s homage penned just after the Westminster attack praising the Zédel for its perpetual fun factor. Yes. Zédel is tons of fun. Stepping down the staircase into the atrium, all smokey travertine, art deco columns and marble and big, bold chandeliers and light fittings you feel like breaking into a Singing in the Rain routine in shimmering velvet.
Le Bar Américain, is to your left – a darkly elegant, cosy cocktail bar serving excellent martinis (I can count good London dry martinis on one hand, so this already marked it out as a cut above). Brasserie Zédel sits to your right, where a crafted bread display marks the opening into a sweepingly vast dining room, formerly the ballroom of the Regent Palace Hotel – the building’s previous incarnation. Waiters bustle, conversation wafts, plates and glasses clink, oysters and Champagne corks pop open with a flourish. It feels decadent. It feels glamorous. And best of all, it is fabulously affordable.
Close your eyes, cast your mind back to your first visit to France, or the first French text book you flicked or arty movie you saw and mentally draw up the ten things you expect to see on the menu. Bingo, you’re right. Escargots? Mais oui. Ile Flotante? Madame, bien sur! Coq au Vin and Boeuf Bourgignon? OÙ EST LA BIBLIOTEQUE JEAN-MARIE!!!???
The set menu, or plat do jour will set you back less than £20 leaving plenty over to splash on a digestif in the bar.
Oysters come on a proper elevated platter with lemons in muslin and a range of mini seafood torture implements, as befits any plateau de fruits de mer. Their Alsatian choucroute is a salty, porky, junipery joy. Everything is pleasing to the eye and the palatte (and my wallet). If you took a first date here and they didn’t beg for a second one, they don’t deserve existence.
I have yet to experience the jazz at Le Crazy Coqs – their late night, live music venue located behind the Bar Americain, when on any given night you can enjoy Edith Piaf tributes, or high brow New York jazz beats with a set menu, and no doubt feel every inch Jean Paul Belmondo minus the Gitane to smoke.
So there. My long overdue ode to the joy of Brasserie Zédel is committed to type. Allez-y!