Thursday 17 February 2011

Les Deux Salons, Covent Garden

Paris brest

Despite being a food blogger with acute restaurant obsession disorder, my friends always pick better restaurants than me. I'll spend hours researching the perfect place, invite a gaggle of friends and brace myself for the imminent praise of my unbelievable, sleuth-like knowledge of all that is hot on the London restaurant scene. Without a doubt, said restaurant will serve up a mole that looks and tastes like a festering cow pat or the waiter will call someone's new girlfriend "sir" - and the dream goes crashing out the window.

Determined to bring this to an end, I booked a table for 4 at Les Deux Salons - a new French brasserie by the brains behind Arbutus and Wild Honey, which has been welcomed to the fold with near universal praise.

Sadly, it turned out to be amateur hour.

First of all, they lost our booking that I had made weeks before and confirmed a few days earlier. But they sat us up at the bar, where we swilled on martinis while overlooking the hubbub in the atmospheric dining room - so all was easily forgiven.

Then an unsmiling maitre d' led us to our table. And led us, and led us.... Until we found ourselves in the cheap seats in a slightly separate, empty room overlooking the good bit. Strike 2.

Fortunately, our partners in crime are always a party on legs, so the occassional passing of tumbleweed didn't matter nearly as much as it could have done. We moved on and ordered our wine.

Unfortunately, LDS no longer sells the 2005 Savigny-les-Beaunes advertised on the menu. Our waiter suggested swapping for the 2006 which, as he pulled the cork (I kid you not) he assured us was not nearly as good as the 2005 but was just about a pass...*trails off, shrugs*. The commentary had all the effect of adding vinegar to the glass - nothing like starting a bottle of wine with the feeling that you should be drinking something better.

The food was (overall) ok, but nothing more. Best of the bunch among our starters was a warm, sweet onion tart with crumbled goats cheese and beetroot (£6.95) - it was beautifully caramelised, with a fabulous goats cheese and just the right amount of softness and crunch.

We couldn't really see the point of the bland quinoa salad (which we'd only ordered on the back of an earlier review) - the mix of broccoli, preserved lemon, italian sweet and bitter leaves and grilled rapeseed oil (£6.95) made little impact.

The foie gras terrine (£13.95) was all a bit "meh", but redeemed by a gorgeous ravioli of tender rose veal, fresh goats curd and cavolo nero (£8.95).

Our USDA rib eye for 2 (at just under £48) - was an average piece of meat, with no sides. When it arrived looking rather lonely, we ordered a lovely creamy, gratin which was quickly delivered. But it would have made sense for the waiter to point out the need for greens or potatoes earlier. And while I don't object to spending a small fortune on a magnificent steak at Hawksmoor or Goodman, the only respect in which this one was in the same league was the price. Nice enough but not really good enough.

The burgers were much better, but even these were not without a hitch. The chef cooks them medium-rare (which would suit me), but our waiter declined to allow our friends to order theirs well done. They did ask, and I suppose they could have forced it if they really insisted, but should people really need to fight with a waiter for their preference? Over a burger?

Anyhoo, the burgers were excellent (juicy and flavourful) and came with thin fries and a generous green salad for £12.

We finished with an enjoyable Paris brest and a very vanilla-ey creme brulee which was a bit sloppy and ho hum.

My excitement about Les Deux Salons didn't match up to reality - what was all the hoo-haa was about? Perhaps they were having a bad night, but life is short - I'll take my chances elsewhere next time I'm picking the venue.

Les Deux Salons, 40-42 William IV Street, London, WCN2 4DD (Tel: 020 7420 2050)

Les Deux Salons on Urbanspoon


  1. Ack. There's been so much chatter about this place - my expectations would have been high too. It sounds as if better service might have helped the soften overall impression too - rather than shining an enormous spotlight to exacerbate all the place's shortcomings? Boooo...

  2. There is nothing that gets a meal off to a low point like being seated in Siberia. Haven't made it past the bar yet. Though must say, did have a lovely glass of cote du rhone while waiting the lad to join me....

  3. Gail - That's exactly right.

  4. Oh Greedy what a shame that, from the sound of it, your experience matched with mine. What IS going on, that a restaurant which opened with such strong pedigree and to general critical acclaim has gone off so badly?

    As a side-order of ranting, it really grinds my gears when restaurants don't warn you that a main course such as your steak doesn't come with anything, as much in fact as it annoys me when they upsell sides for dishes that are already garnished.

  5. I was here to celebrate a friend's birthday and while the food was good, it was spectacular and the whole experience was futher let down by the service. I also left wondering what the hoo haa was about.

  6. Oh dear that does sound distinctly average - maybe they have started to let all the good press go their heads? I find that tends to happen with places that are raved about when they first open then a couple of months down the line their standards drop. I would like to try the veal ravioli as it sounds like an interesting dish but have to say this place isn't overly high on my list of must-visit places.

  7. Thank god - I didn't like the place much (food sent back for being too salty, waiter elbowed my mum in the head...) and I thought I was going mad what with all the positive reviews.

  8. when I first saw the photo of that lovely-looking Paris-Brest, I got excited about Les Deux Salons (which I haven't visited bc I stopped going to Arbutus after a particularly bad-service night there).

    Anyway, sad to hear about the series of small-but-they-add-up hiccups. I often wish restaurants would forego the extra moolah from clearly-horrible tables and just not have those tables at all!

    And hilarious that the waiter rained on your wine parade just before opening the bottle and walking off.

    Sounds like I'll just stick with Galvin Bistro de Luxe, then, for my bistro fix.

  9. Tori - Indeed. I quite liked the bar area, but then you are among the hustle and bustle there so it had far more atmosphere than the section where we were later seated.

    Hugh - That's right. When I read your review I had hoped it might be confined to the afternoon tea experience, but my experience was definitely similar to yours. I agree on the side dishes rant.

    Kay - So interesting to hear I am not alone on this!

    Amy - It is a shame as it seems to have the potential to be more.

    Lizzie - Me too! But we're all coming out of the wood work now!

    An American In London - I think it would be much better for restaurants not to bother seating people at all rather than put them in Siberia - at least if they are aiming for repeat custom. It can so easily detract from the whole experience. I'm with you on Galvin Bistro de Luxe - great place.

  10. Yikes! already sounded bad when they swapped the wine on you without saying anything beforehand...

  11. The tide seems to be turning with reputation at this place - such a shame and exactly the wrong time (financially and in the year) to be letting things slip!

  12. Oh no! So sad to read this as I had been getting excited about this place. The waiter wine story is hilariously bad London service. Unbelievable!

  13. Ooh, I hate it when restaurants refuse to let someone order their burger/steaks/lamb chops well done. If that's how someone likes it, that's how they like it, so do it. You're a restaurant not a gastronomic re-eductaion camp. It really riles me.

    Was walking pst there yesterday and wondering if it was worth a go, having read Hugh's review I thought probably not. Having read yours, definitely not.

  14. Perdita - yes, perhaps an off night, but I wasn't all that excited about the place in the end.

    Gourmet Chick - we did think the wine thing was quite funny at the time!

    Gin and Crumpets - My thoughts exactly.

  15. Glad you review according to your experience and not the chef and owner's CVs.


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