What can you tell us about Brasserie Chavot?
It's a new beginning for Eric Chavot whose last place in London was the two Michelin-starred Capital in Knightsbridge. Since then Chavot worked with Pierre Koffmann at the Selfridges pop-up and spent time as the private of the Westons (who own Selfridges). We go into all of that in more detail in our interview with Eric here.
Where is it?
This is the second destination restaurant to open up at The Westbury (the other is Alyn Williams). Brasserie Chavot is the less formal restaurant of the two - a smart Mayfair version of a Parisian brasserie. The room's always been a bit problematic - long and thin. But designer Alex Kravetz has neatly solved that by partitioning the room to break up the line of tables all down one side. And the combo of huge chandeliers with the beautiful tiled flooring makes this a contender for most improved dining room in London.
Where should I sit?
We went for one of the side tables for two - none of the tables are too close together. If you're a group there was a table for six further into the dining room and plenty of tables of four down the middle.
Where should I meet up with friends?
There are a few small tables with a teeny bar at the entrance to the restaurant - so you can meet someone here. There's the Polo Bar in the hotel (which is accessible directly through side doors into the brasserie. But we'd recommend cocktails maybe at Pollen St Social or perhaps the bar at Aqua which is only five minutes walk away.
Is bread included?
It is, but as a warning, the potato bread is so soft and gorgeous you may want to bury your face in it and forget anything else. Go easy at this stage - you'll need to show restraint.
What should I eat?
We went before it opened, trying an abbreviated version of the full menu - but all the dishes we tried will feature on it. Having been sold the great crab mayonnaise £11.75) by Chavot when we last spoke to him, we felt honour bound to order that and it was as good as billed - a great combination of textures, soft crab, crunchy lettuce and silky avocado, but we also wanted the deep-fried soft shell crab which was served up with a rich, saffon alioli (£11). Those two dishes work to illustrate what kind of menu Chavot's put together - a mixture of old school brasserie food with plenty of modern touches. Because we're total pigs - we also had the steak tartare - which was cut through with baby gherkins, liliput capers and topped with a soft-boiled quail egg. It was hands-down one of the nicest steak tartares we've ever had and we've had more than a few.
For mains we once again sought out dishes that encompassed Chavot's heritage and enthusiasm for embracing other cuisines. The daube de boeuf with 'garniture grand-mere' (£19.50) you may have had if you were lucky to get a table at the Selfridges pop-up. The slow-cooked rump had an extraordinary deep flavour and came with fabulous mash - but the better dish was the one our waitress (the lovely Rita) urged us to order as a signature dish - the mini rack of lamb with couscous and olive jus (£23). The lamb was great as you'd expect, but it was the couscous - studded with golden raisons, pequillo peepers, pine nuts, fresh coriander and mint that really made us swoon, particularly when soaked with the olive jus. Really, really good.
At this point we needed a 10 minute break to compose ourselves before even thinking about desserts. The rum baba helped a little by coming with shaved pineapple and light crème fraîche Chantilly (£6.50), but we surprised ourselves a little by much preferring the Café liègeois (£7) - a coffee-flavoured sundae of sorts which was just the right thing to end this meal with.
What about drinks?
Having begun with a glass each of the Moet et Chandon, our starters were paire with a glass each of the house Gaillac and Petit Syrah - both really good value in these parts at just £5.50 and £5 a glass respectively. Dessert wine was a Pineau des Charente which was just sweet enough.kicked off with a retro French Martini and the small wine list starts at a reasonable £18 a bottle (£5 a glass).
Just like buses, you wait ages for a good brasserie to open and then two come at once. There will inevitably be comparisons between Brasserie Chavot and Balthazar, but really they're two entirely different beasts. Chavot is certainly the more grown up of the two restaurants - but we reckon it'll have a buzz of its own. And of course, Chavot's food is what'll draw you here again and again. When trying to think of a target audience for this place we failed - because almost everyone we knew will love it, from Londoners tired of queueing and shouting to be heard over dinner to romancing couples and people looking for places to take their parents to - Brasserie Chavot delivers.
Brasserie Chavot, 41 Conduit St Mayfair, London W1S 2YF. To book call 020 7078 9577
Prices were correct at time of writing. Hot Dinners were invited to eat at Brasserie Chavot during its soft opening.