So before I go any further on Brasserie Zedel, it’s important to mention that I went during the soft launch. I appreciate fully what that means (although it's fine to credit a successful soft launch of course). And I understand it really is buyer beware during this period, and a time to iron out difficulties or menu duds on willing guinea pigs (but at this stage, only the service should need practice).
Our starters were a variety of Parisian type salad dishes. Prices are incredibly low – between two and six hard-earned pounds will get you most of the starters on offer. The selection is vast and a bit repetitive, and could do with some translation for some of the less well-known dishes. My melon and ham wasn’t that inspiring – the prosciutto was utterly tasteless so was ostensibly just a plate of melon.
Mains were steaks all round – onglet at £10.95 and the fillet mignon at £15.95. A good French brasserie needs to be able to deliver a solid steak frites if nothing else (dull starters are forgivable distractions as the queues at Relais de Venise will attest) and those of BZ definitely need some attention as they will sink or swim on the strength of their steaks.
The onglet was a desperately unattractive plate of food; the low lighting and lack of daylight in the room (more on this later) mean that my photos are sub-par, but it really did resemble what you’re thinking. The jus was more an explosion of browny pan oil even though the steak was correctly cooked and sliced.
The fillet mignon was better: the meat was juicy and well-cooked but the portion was quite measly even at such a knock-down price. Again the photo does actually do the sauce justice – it tasted good but aesthetically it was greasy and split like an industrial-grade French boob job.
Fries were actually very good, so credit there. Desserts were good too. So onto the issues, beyond the ugly steak plates.
Service was endearingly chaotic. The hordes of staff were charging around trying to get everything done but it seemed to be a constant uphill battle. I hope they will calm down as the mood was definitely infectious – our table certainly felt on edge because the serving staff were visibly so. The house wines (there is a selection with grape types and years, but unnamed wineries) are sketchy – avoid the 2010 Pinot Noir at all costs which was undrinkable and go for a safer choice at that price point, like a Cotes du Rhone.
Other than the army of headless chickens, my other main gripe is with the space and the vibe itself. I’m sure BZ is going to be hugely popular with the churn of theatre-goers and day-trippers from the Home Counties, but I don’t see it infiltrating itself into the consciousness of London’s high end lunchers in the way of The Wolseley, or The Delaunay more recently.
It felt like feeding time on a gargantuan cruise ship and the cheap prices (rather than great value) and superannuated diners only support this. If you took every Café Rouge in London and amalgamated them into a subterranean pink dining room which probably wouldn’t have been accepted at Caesar’s Palace, you’d be about there.
For what it’s worth, I loved the look of both bars and thought the upstairs café was also a cleverly designed, compact space. But I certainly wouldn’t return to the main dining room. And a final note: the doorman at the street level had the attitude more of a beleaguered bouncer – surely you’re supposed to welcome, not bark – compared to the absolute gentlemen at The Wolseley, it was another reminder of that very delicate line between accessible and crass.
Food – 6/10
Drink – 6/10
Service - 7/10
Value – 7/10
Tap water tales – 8/10