Les Deux Salons, Covent Garden
This fancy French brasserie type affair opened to much song and dance in 2011 from the people behind the phenomenally (and deservedly) successful Wild Honey and Arbutus. I came in 2011 and had a terrible time: the staff lost our booking despite my email confirmation, stuck us in the Private Dining Room and wouldn't let us order from the pre-theatre menu because of it. It really ruined the night. But then, I came back a few months later and sat in the brasserie proper (all Gallic gloss, glamour and buzz on a Saturday night) and had a brilliant night. Then again, last year a couple of friends and I had a really great meal tucked away in a cosy banquette gleefully eavesdropping on Mark Hix.
So, I was puzzled to see the place closed for much of spring this year and hear it had changed hands; the team behind Boundary, Lutyens and Albion are at the helm and they've given it a bit of a revamp. Rich is a big French food fan, so come Father's Day I surprised him with a long lunch at Les Deux Salons to check it out. It looks much the same interior-wise - still a big grand room, flooded with light from the glass ceiling, but now separated into two sections. There's the brasserie as always, but now there's an option of fine dining at the £££ restaurant. There's also a little deli type area by the entrance of French store-cupboard classics and the like, which is a nice touch.
As it was Father's Day, we obviously had Leo with us and everyone was lovely to him from start to finish, chatting to him and offering to bring us things for him (they do a decent children's menu and it's even completely free for them to eat up until midday on the weekend):
With Leo fat, full up and thankfully asleep we began the important business of selecting our starters. I'm a sucker for a dressed crab and hadn't had my fill for the season, so knew I wanted to have that. It came with a light and refreshing apple and fennel salad, some well made mayo and some melba toast. The brown crab meat was divine in its depth of flavour and I was so glad they didn't just fob me off with the more popular white:
Being a raging carnivore, Rich ordered the steak tartare. I'd had it there before and knew it to be a solid choice, and true to form it arrived defiantly red, bloody and heavy with capers then topped with some serious #yolkporn.
I've had it as a main course before with just a green salad, and it really hits the spot, believe me.
This time I went for duck confit - never far off my desert island dishes list - and cassoulet because if you're going to do bistro classics, then you just have to don't you? It was everything I wanted it to be, and everything I can't *quite* get right at home myself:
The duck was meltingly good, and slid away from the bone with abandon, not to mention the skin which was frankly debased in its calorific savoury glory.
The calves liver with sausage and sage was just as impressive; cooked over a Josper grill (essentially a very cheffy indoor bbq / oven) to great effect. Served gratifyingly pink, it retained much of the satisfying offal note but with enough grandiose about it to hold its own as a big meaty main. Despite our joint love of all things innard, we were not adventurous enough for the andouilette (an intestinal sausage) which whilst considered a true French delicacy, most people find to be truly foul. I tried it once and never again - and I eat EVERYTHING. It says something when the waiter sees you gesturing at a menu item and rushes over to warn you off it. Here's the lovely calf liver instead:
Somehow we considered our mains not to be rich enough alone, so ordered a giant vat of dauphinoise (amazing) and some little chantenay carrots that I think had had the vichy treatment. Both yummy:
There is always room for cheese and pudding in our book; and eating one's way through two big bistro courses and lots of lovely wine works up quite the appetite. It was only ever going to be the cheese tray for Rich, because look at it:
I think they said they're all sourced from La Fromagerie, and it's literally impossible to go wrong there so of course they were all consistently good. I struggled to choose between the various desserts, so opted to have the tasting plate of four minis and an espresso (title pic). The chocolate / hazelnut offering you can see top right was out of this world; I found the madeleine dull.
A fantastic meal in beautiful surroundings and the lot came to £148 inc. service (two bottles very very good house red that we tried to buy from the new little shop but to no avail).