A Garlic Lover's Dream
There seems to be a constant stream of new restaurants opening in our fair capital and it can sometimes take a while to get around to visiting the ones you fancy. Last October when Anthony Demetre and Will Smith (not of Fresh Prince fame) opened their latest offering, Les Deux Salons, I was living and working in Bristol so I added this new brasserie to my ever expanding wish list.
Happily a couple of weeks back I got to visit Les Deux Salons for dinner on the evening of my birthday, a treat from Glen, who I will, from now on, refer to as 'the boy'.
My first thoughts on entering was how very, very Parisian the decor and atmosphere was. The black and white marbled floor, cosy leather seating, and low-hanging crystal style lighting. Not to mention that it was early on a Monday evening, around 730pm and the place was filled with diners, chatter and a general happy buzz - I was suitably impressed.
The waitress (not French) brought over some delicious, crusty bread, took our wine (a Loire Muscadet - dry, crisp, lovely) and water order and left us to ponder over the menu. I'd been for the unexpected afternoon tea at Bea's of Bloomsbury (see previous post) that day where I'd scoffed a plentiful selection of goodies so faced a dilemma - starter or dessert.
Both menus had tempting offerings which made me virtually salivate so I decided to go for a starter and hope that I'd be able to squeeze in a dessert at the end of the meal.
I chose to try the brandade, something I'd heard about but never tried. This is generally a combination of salt cod and olive oil with either bread or potatoes. In this case it was with mashed potato, sauteed squid and an interesting and clever parsley cromesqui.
This was the kind of food you could just imagine tucking into when feeling a bit low, truly a comfort dish served in a small, round ceramic dish. It was soft and very well seasoned mash potato with the squid and cod mixed in, both adding a salty deliciousness and with a huge hit of garlic. Alone this would have been quite tasty. But the essential item which elevated this dish to something wonderful was the cromesqui. A cromesqui is croquette-like, a small ball in breadcrumbs which acts as a container for a liquid - in this case parsley in a luminous greeny butter. As I cut into this little delight the vibrant green liquid oozed out over the brandade, it was a real treat for the eyes before the mouth. It gave the dish a new dimension and what was before tasty, became delicious.
The boy went for the Herefordshire Snail and Bacon pie, having never tried snails and being curious. It was a pot pie with a lovely, flaky puff pastry lid. The filling was in a creamy whitish sauce with yet more garlic. The snails were tender and almost the texture of a wild mushroom and like a mushroom they absorbed all of the flavours of the sauce like a sponge and were gorgeously flavoursome.. The pie went down well with the boy but personally I found that overall the sauce was a little too overpoweringly garlicy for me.
For mains the boy chose young chicken with lemon and garlic, which I complained was a boring order. However as is so often the case, this simplest of orders was actually very tasty indeed. Moist, well seasoned and flavourful chicken with a deliciously crispy skin.
I opted for the roast saddle of rabbit and was so, so glad I did - it was just exquisite. Wrapped in a cured ham and stuffed with a mixture of rabbit offal in what was almost a pate consistency, the combination put me in momentary food heaven every time I took a bite. The three different elements of the dish just worked perfectly.
The rabbit came with spring chard, which had been just wilted in a salty garlic butter, and a carrot puree. I'm not overly keen on purees - while I still have my teeth in tact I really prefer food that can be chewed, however this admittedly had a nice sweetness to it which complemented the dish well as a whole - just a shame about the texture.
We ordered dauphinoise potatoes as a side, because apparently I am unable to enter a French restaurant without ordering them, and the boy couldn't resist ordering some chips - both were good.
Unfortunately after this I couldn't have even squeezed in a chocolate, let alone a full dessert. I was gutted, but there's always next time.
We both enjoyed the meal, the food was of a very good quality, cooked well and also presented beautifully. We sadly took the lingering smell of excessive garlic away with us, but I guess this is to be expected when eating French food. Like it's sister restaurants Arbutus and Wild Honey, Les Deux Salons is good value for a restaurant so well positioned in the West End, just off of Covent Garden. The meal was around the £85 for two courses each and a bottle of wine.
It's well worth a visit and the type of place where you could go for a celebration, a quick bite or a long-drawn out meal. I imagine this is one brasserie that is here to stay.