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2 posts from August 2012

14 August 2012


I was hoping not to like Trullo.  I'd railed against the inhospitable booking policy and managed to get into an argument with one of London's better chefs about it.  

Hospitality discussion

Storified by Anthony Silverbrow · Thu, Aug 09 2012 16:19:16

"We look forward to seeing you tomorrow at 8, please remember we need your table back by 10" ≠ hospitality. Restaurants should = hospitalityAnthony Silverbrow
@Silverbrow Sorry, you can't have a table all night in every restaurant out there. and sometimes we have to make that clear on the phone....isaac mchale
@itsisaac why not just work it in to the speed of service & menu construction and make sure diners are out in the necessary timeframeAnthony Silverbrow
@Silverbrow .....i don't like doing it but we have to. judge us on r hospitality when you get here, not that we have to use a table twiceisaac mchale
@itsisaac but that's not how it works, I start looking forward to my meal from before I arrive, including booking...Anthony Silverbrow
@itsisaac ...and the restaurant goes out of its way to tell me they really want me to leave at a certain time...Anthony Silverbrow
@itsisaac ...Surely restaurants can achieve the same ends without the need to be so passive aggressive to guests?Anthony Silverbrow
@Silverbrow Don't take it as aggression, just the need to reuse yr table that night at a preordained time. people get indignant at 'out by'isaac mchale
@Silverbrow ....times but you have to do something. or else charge more, or have a 'no bookings' policy.isaac mchale
@HRWright @Silverbrow s'times it does,s'times doesn't but you have to plan yr business n while i dont like, i understand necessity of themisaac mchale

I still think that if you tell a customer that you are looking forward to seeing them, but you want to make clear what time you want them out, is not a particularly welcoming thing to do.

Anyway, despite that I really can't hate Trullo.  I loved it.  Yes, I was apprehensive going in, but once it, it was an almost (see the dessert) flawless meal.

There is something cossetting about the blue tongue-and-groove room.  The service was faultless.  Just the right side of familiar, but totally focused on ensuring we had a great meal.  They were at pains to ensure that our slightly offbeat prosecco was to our liking and once the food was delivered, pretty much left us to enjoy ourselves.

We started by sharing a delicious, sloppy burrata with sticky, honeyed figs.  I then had a ricotta and butter ravioli that was silky, slippery and with a decent bite.  Silverbrowess had an almond soup.  I tried making one of these many years ago.  Mine turned out to be a gritty, garlicky mush.  Trullo's was a smooth, sexy mouthful.

For main course I had a perfectly grilled mackerel (they could teach Brasserie Zedel a thing or two about grilling fish).  The skin was charred, adding a smoky note to the moist meat within.  Silverbrowess had a crespelle.  It is basically a veggie crepe covered in cheese.  She loved it, which is what counts.  I thought it tasted fine, but was more than happy with my mackerel.

The one off note was dessert.  We ordered the white-peach and almond tart and asked for a taster of the burned caramel ice-cream.  They kindly gave us a full scoop of the ice-cream, swapping it for what I think was supposed to be creme-fraiche that accompanied the tart.  I don't think the tart did justice to what I imagine was probably some delicious fruit.  It felt a bit of a waste.  The ice-cream was far too burned and I found it bordering on the unpleasant. 

One last word on that silly reservation policy of telling us we needed to be out after two hours.  We were comfortably out of our seats by 10. Not because we rushed, or felt rushed, but because the restaurant paced the meal and made sure that we were out in time.  Which is exactly why surely, they don't need to forewarn you.  They are good at turning tables, just do it, don't bother telling the customer you are doing it.

However, despite the dessert and the booking policy, I love the place and will be back there in a shot.  Most of the food was very good, great ingredients and spot-on cooking.  I'll ignore their entreaties to bugger off when I book and I'll simply order another antipasti and just ignore the desserts. 

Google Maps

Trullo, 300-302 Saint Paul's Road, London, N1 2LH, UK
+44 (0)20 7226 2733

What others think

Jay Rayner - Great food, expertly cooked and served by friendly waiting staff… There's no secret to Trullo's success.

09 August 2012

Brasserie Zedel

Chris Corbin & Jeremy King are for good reason held in high regard in the London restaurant world. They are credited with bringing us Sheekey's, The Ivy, The Caprice.  Their group, Rex Restaurant Associates, currently owns The Wolseley, The Delaunay and new kid: Brasserie Zedel.  They have two further projects on the go, Colbert, a brasserie and The Beaumont, a hotel.

Anything strike you about that list?  It's long.  Five establishments and two men.  Two men famed for being hands on, always around, keeping an eye on things making their guests feel special.  Don't underestimate how much their guests want to feel special.  They want the reassurance of people realising that they have managed to get one of the most-wanted tables in town.  Even better if one of proprietors of these evergreen deluxe joints comes over to say hello.

So, how to maintain that level of intimacy and quality over five venus? Ah, well that assumes the plan is to maintain that intimacy and quality.  Based on my lunch at Brasserie Zedel, it's not.

My impression is that Zedel is the restaurant in the Corbin and King stable that allows the masses to say "I've eaten there".  It is I fear, a place for tourists and the bridge and tunnel brigade.  I know I should be shot for using such a horribly snobby term, but it's true.

I've seen some reviews that have reported in some wonder at just how cheap it is.  Barely £4 for some starters or main courses.  The cynic in me says it's a reflection of a need for people to justify return visits and possibly, just possibly, lower quality ingredients.

Despite the aforementioned skill of Corbin and King in creating restaurants people want to eat in, I'm a bit ambivalent about their restaurants.  I do not like The Wolseley.  Over the past couple of years I have not had a decent meal there.  The service is ok, but the food is poor.  They seemed unable to poach an egg that was not either raw or had the consistency of a rubber ball.

However, I love The Delaunay.  It consistently hits the right spot of good food, great service and a nice space.

One of the things that really struck me in Danny Meyer's book Setting the Table, was his obsession with hospitality.  Meyer, founder of the Union Square Hospitality Group which owns New York stalwarts such as Gramercy Tavern and The Shake Shack, knows a thing or two about restaurants. And until Zedel, I would have said that Corbin and King were utterly focused on hospitality as well.

First off it's remarkable how impersonal the whole place is.  As you walk in, there's this weird tiny cafe, with no one in it. Then to get to the main restaurant and bars you walk down and round and down and round without anyone or anything to confirm you're heading in the right direction.

You find your way to the dining room because of the din. It's enormous, with massively high ceilings and a vast cavernous space.  And it's very very bright, weirdly so given how deep you are and also they're good at the lighting, as both The Delaunay and Wolseley testify.

The room is pretty gross.  Not just in the German sense.  There is a lot of marble (fake?), wood pannelling (from Ikea?) and gilding.  

On to the meal.  The menu is ok, but strikes me as odd that it is all in French, with some explanations in English. Stick to one language or another and given we're in the UK, let's make it English.  What with almost cartoon-like vastness of the room, it feels like Disneyland.

After sitting down, it took about 25 minutes and a bit of handwaving to get attention to be served.  I started with a herring salad and went on to have a grilled seabass.  My spicy virgin mary was ordered but never arrived.

The herring was a good piece of fish, but it had been molested by a very oily potato salad.  Herring is oily enough, it doesn't really need much in the way of oily accompaniments.  I know that filets de hareng, pommes à l’huile is a classic, but this did not seem to be an effective execution.  The potatoes added some starch, but not much flavour.  Frankly a traditional potato salad, with a dash of mayo and lemon juice would have been a much better contrast to the already oily fish.

I'd been warned when ordering my seabass that it was a whole fish.  Fine, happy with that I've no problem filleting it.  What turns up is, as warned, a whole fish.  As I go to work demonstrating my fine dexterity it's clear that it's already been filleted.  I found it (perhaps unduly) disconcerting that this entire fish turns up, including head and a lopped off tail, but there's no skeleton.  What was inside was some overcooked fennel. The fish itself was flaccid and lacked any taste. It may have been grilled, but the skin was soggy.

It was served with what they described as pilau rice.  It seemed to me to be just ordinary white basmati rice.  Fine but dull.

I ordered a side of tomato and shallot salad.  The tomatoes looked pretty enough, lots of different hues and sizes, but lacked taste.  It had none of the sweetness of tomatoes or slight kick of oil and vinegar that you get at say Sheekey's with their version.  It was this dish more than any other that made me question the quality of the ingredients.  I was reminded of those multi-coloured boxes of tomatoes you can get in any supermarket.  They look good, but lack flavour.

In a state of some despondency I needed something to revivify me and so ordered an espresso.  It was grim.  It didn't look like an espresso, there was no crema and it had that horrible, over-extracted taste that I'd hoped had been banished from London restaurants.

I wonder whether Corbin and King are genuinely proud of Brasserie Zedel.  I'm sure it will be a financial success, but that alone has never appeared to be their driving motivation.  Don't get me wrong, I'm all for restaurants making money, they are businesses and need to make a profit.  I'm well aware of the problems of profitablity at the top end.  But this just felt so cynical and so much like the Corbin and King diffusion range.

Google Maps

Brasserie Zedel, 20 Sherwood Street, London, W1F 7ED, UK
Tel: +44 (0)20 7734 4888

What others think

Zoe Williams - It's vulgar to harp on about the money, but at these prices it's churlish to complain. The quality is solidly good, and the atmosphere swanky. Nevertheless, I feel that they're not giving themselves enough freedom. Even the slightest kink or experimentation would liven things up a bit.
Matthew Fort -  Zedel is a dream of Parisian brasseries as they never were, bigger, grander, more theatrical, dare I say better.