Brasserie Zédel, Picadilly, London

It was our 31st wedding anniversary, and the brief was to go somewhere romantic. Brasserie Zédel certainly was. It’s an Art Deco beauty; the food is wonderful and the service is faultless.

Zédel

We went on a day when London was, bizarrely, patrolled by armed police and soldiers, following the sick atrocity in Manchester. The guns didn’t seem to worry most Londoners and tourists. The brasserie is just outside Picadilly Circus tube station; you go through a bar/ café, down into the depths and into what was a hotel ballroom. It’s just lovely. I couldn’t take photos that would do it justice. Look at the website: Brasserie Zédel. From where I was sitting, it reminded me of Manet’s painting of the bar at the Folies Bergere, but it’s far lovelier.

We splashed out, but there are some very good fixed price menus. Mrs O, with her customary sense of adventure, had frogs’ legs, with a garlic mayonnaise, which were excellent, then chicken in a champagne sauce, which was even better. I had a delicious fish soup, with rouille (a sauce of chilli peppers, garlic, etc.) and gruyère. This was outstanding, the rouille adding a lovely tang. My confit duck with lentils was good but not outstanding; to be honest, lentils are not really my thing, and I just find them uninspiring after the first few mouthfuls. We had the cheapest bottle of wine on the menu, a very appropriate and enjoyable white.

Dessert was outstanding. We both had Café Gourmand: a trio of lemon tart, with a lovely crunchy top, a rhubarb crème, and a chocolate roulade, with a cafetière of coffee (just coffee, none of your cappuccino latte frappé thingies). Oh, and a Cointreau. Just to show that lunchtime drinking is not yet dead.

The waiting staff are just remarkable (especially in a restaurant with apparently 300 seats.) I have never, ever had such good service. They were polite, helpful and attentive without being pushy. I get the feeling that they treat everybody, from business lunchers to tourists to middle-aged couples celebrating their anniversary with the same courtesy.

The cost for us was just over £100, with service; however fixed prices start at £9.75. This was an unforgettable meal for us. We strolled out into the London sunshine, rather sleepy, to see the Hockney exhibition at Tate Britain. (A curate’s egg. Don’t worry if you missed it.) We recommend Brasserie Zédel without such reservations.

(I have shown one picture from the website, without knowing any copyright issues; I will of course remove it if there are any problems.)

Bibimbap House, Cambridge

A weekend in Cambridge. Miss Oblique #1 and RG take us to a Korean restaurant. It’s well worth a mention.

I’ve never eaten Korean food before and was a little uncertain; was it going to be very spicy? The exterior is unprepossessing. The menu is, as Miss O. says, narrow, consisting of variations on Bibimbap. This, for those of you who are as ignorant as I was, is basically a hearty bowlful.

bibimbapWhat you get is a big stone bowl of rice or noodles, with carrot, cabbage, cucumber, an egg and probably some other things I have forgotten. (If I’m going to attempt reviews, perhaps I should take notes.) On the side are little dishes of tofu, mashed potato, a bowl of miso soup, and meat in sauce; I had beef, with rice. Variations, include tuna, pork and vegetable only versions. (Thanks to Miss O. for the photo.)

I think the approved technique of eating is to mix it all together. I added the constituent parts a little at a time, which proved inspired. The  result is a meal which changes as you go, maintaining interest right to the bottom of the (large) bowl. The rice at the bottom is a little crispy, due to the heat of the stone. The egg breaks and mingles and cooks. The sauces (don’t ask me what they all are) are subtle and not fiery. I particularly liked the creamy mashed potato. There are whispers that it is from a packet, but I don’t care. It goes beautifully.

There was nothing I didn’t like about this meal, and my opinion was shared. I had green tea, which went perfectly. Perhaps the tofu is a little bland, but tofu is always bland. The service is friendly yet polite and not over-attentive.It is a little on the dear side: £70 for four of us. But it is filling and delicious. Bibimbap House is at 60 Mill Road: I commend it to my readers.

Ceno, Highfield, Southampton

It is the occasion of Mr Oblique Junior’s 21st birthday, and we have found a restaurant which, amazingly, suits all of us.

Ceno, in Highfield Road, is variously described as a café diner or bar restaurant; I would probably call it a brasserie. We booked quite late for Sunday evening, and were given a round table, ideal for six of us; we could all chat and could all pay attention to the youngest Miss O, who can be ‘difficult’.

There was a set price menu for this Sunday evening; we could have had the à la carte but the range was so wide we didn’t bother.

For starters, we had whitebait- cooked perfectly, crispy and fresh-tasting; gravadlax fishcakes, with a lovely pea velouté; goat’s cheese crostini; and a rich pâté with onion marmalade. All were brilliant. At the suggestion of the waitress, Miss O. had garlic bread, which, amazingly, she loved.

To nobody’s surprise, she had chips for the main course. With ketchup. Three of us had honey duck, with a huge and delicious salad of noodles…. and stuff. I should have taken notes, but I do know it was all excellent, with a lovely mix of textures, from the duck, which was soft but not pappy, to the crispy salad. A lamb burger was declared almost as good as Mrs O’s. Praise indeed. Swordfish was a new one on us all, and really good, almost a meaty taste.

We had soft drinks and a bottle of Shiraz; it was the cheapest on the menu and lovely.

By this time, only half of us could attempt pudding (especially knowing there was birthday cake at home). Sticky toffee pudding and chocolate brownie with chocolate sauce and chocolate ice cream were both highly appreciated. Miss O. had chocolate ice cream, of course. Where does this chocolate addiction come from, I wonder? (I got into trouble when I said it could be cleared away before she was finished, while she was in the toilet.)

ceno

This meal cost £142 for six of us; I thought it was good value for the quality. I have nothing negative to say….oh. alright: I hate slate plates, but as mine was just a platter for my pâté I didn’t object.

Best of all were the setting, which is modern but very comfortable, and the staff. They are brilliant: attentive without being fussy and friendly without being what my grandmother would have called ‘familiar’. They were brilliant with Miss O, who really enjoyed herself. I can’t praise this place highly enough. Five stars.

Just a note: writing what amounts to a restaurant review is an interesting exercise. I started off in the present tense, but decided that didn’t work, so changed it. It is really difficult to avoid cliché and too much irrelevant detail. Also, I can’t do all the accents on some of these French words; I had to copy and paste from other places. All comments are always gratefully received.

(The pictures are from the Ceno Facebook page; as I have been very positive, I hope they don’t mind!)