Brasserie Zedel

20 Sherwood Street, London W1N - 020 7734 4888

Turning off from the brash bright lights of Piccadilly and into the more warm and forgivingly lit room of Cafe Zedel you are transported immediately to the otherside of the channel. A top hatted doorman assists you with the door then your eyes are led like Alice through the looking glass with curiousity from mirrored turn to the next, spiralling down a warren of art deco to an elaborate underground cove of grandeur. As if preserved for over half a century the marbled columns edged with gold and caramel inlaid wood floors look exotic in comparison to all the white tiled and bare bulb interiors that seem to decorate all new openings of late. As for the menu it read almost wholly in French, whilst I adequately dceiphered the confit de canard from the boudin noir we struggled with the likes of Cuisses de Grenouille and Carrelet Meunière. After asking the waiter for assistance and then requesting an English menu I was slightly embarrassed and felt like an ignorant tourist in my own city, making the experience that bit more authentic to that of ordering in France. All forgiven though as soon as the sliced baguettes and creamy butter arrived.

The choice was vast, each course offered atleast fifteen variations and this is without the inclusion of the plats du jour or fixed price menu. We opted to share an onion galette to start, which was a delightful simple golden flaky pastry topped with sweet slow cooked onions studded with salty anchovies and black olives. From the starter and salad section we ordered dressed carrot to accompany our mains, on reflection if we doubled up on starters and had the carrot dish that trio would have made very handsome meals on their own. The promise of dressed sauerkraut with a selection of meats from the annexed part of the menu of Choucroute tempted me over any of the other French classics. A frankfurter, thick cut smoked pork belly and slices of garlic sausage adorned a mound of delicately pickled cabbage and perfectly turned potato boulders. You got creaminess from the starchy potatoes, smokiness from the meats all cut through by a pleasant pang of acid from the cabbage, a perfect winter meal, if I missed out the starter I would have been able to squeeze in the superior version that included the ham hock and Moreau sausage for a humble £15.

Expectant crowd pleasers like steak and fries sat alongside more regional favourites such as the above Alsace platters and normandy fish stew. The meat offer was equally balanced with various fish options ranging from grilled and doused in a herb butter infusion or pan fried and dressed in an escabeche.

Although we were defeated by our savoury courses the indulgent chocolate mousse for sharing or perhaps the lighter option of sorbet and champagne was still tempting us. All of the dozen deserts were pulling at our sweet tooth and all coming in at under five pounds, caution was ever so nearly being thrown to the wind. But alas, although we pretty much felt as if were in Paris, we were in London and not on holiday, and indulgent overeating couldn't be justified.

Brasserie Zedel is old school in its approach, deflecting little from all classic aspects of a brasserie; a plethora of affordable food and drinks, served by waiters in well pressed monochrome and open for all main meals and anything in between. When you would be lucky to get change from a tenner when you stop for a sandwich and flat white at your favourite trendy Aussie coffee shop, feasting on two courses then finishing off with a coffee in lavish surroundings for the same price is a steal. Zedel's offering is a handsome and affordable one, the odd high nosed disgruntled waiter is the only sour point, but even this makes for a more realistic experience, like a true mini break but in your own city.

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