The golden pair of London’s restaurant scene have done it again. The Corbin-King partnership, spanning 30 years, that is responsible for iconic culinary institutions such as The Ivy, Le Caprice, J. Sheekey (these ones they sold) and later The Wolseley and Delaunay, now has another behemoth to their name. Brasserie Zedel, having opened just earlier this year, is nothing short of spectacular. One doesn’t quite know the beast that lies below the streets when walking into what seems like a small french brasserie. I certainly was confused as to where to go, thinking the restaurant was upstairs and that I should take the lift, instead of going down to where the bar is. Even whilst walking down the stairs, the place seems eerie. Then of course, one reaches the main concourse of Zedel with passages to the bar, the performance room and the restaurant.
What began as the Regent Palace Hotel in 1915, the largest of its kind in all of Europe, slowly declined after the 2nd world war and was left largely to the mercies of dust and time, until this century when a conscious effort was made to revive the space as a bar. The Atlantic Bar, however, didn’t fare too well and it wasn’t until the aforementioned Midas’ added their touch, creating Brasserie Zedel, that a hint of its former glory was finally restored. Make no mistake – the place may look like it would need a small mortgage to be able to dine there, but the prices on the menu offer much relief as one can dine like a king with the wallet of a pauper. I had mentioned behemoth earlier. The restaurant seats a few hundred covers! And on an average day, will serve at least 500 people, crossing the 1000 barrier on the weekend. You do the maths.
The food is decidedly the simplest and most basic of French dishes. A starter of Jambon Persille (ham and parsley terrine) was just a bit under seasoned and lacking a depth of flavour whilst the main course of Choucroute Alsacienne hit the mark. It wasn’t over vinegary as a lot of choucroute often is, whilst all the meat components were sublime, barring one – the flacid, devoid of flavour strip of Ventreche bacon (the frankfurter and morteau sausage were lovely!). Dessert, however, was a beautiful and intense round up of all things wonderful – meringue, pistachio, cherry….a good, classic vacherin.
What’s nice is that in spite of the hits and misses, the food here doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is. It’s cheap, simple comfort food in the most glorious of surroundings complete with original marble walls and pillars and gold motifs throughout. With an average spend of £22, it’s a place to impress, be impressed, and sleep easy in the knowledge that there could be another night out on the town very soon. It truly is a step back in time.