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Eating Out: Brasserie Chavot, London

41 Conduit Street, Mayfair, London, W1S 2YF
020 7183 6425
Cuisine: French
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To say that the denizens of London Town were excited by the prospect of Brasserie Chavot is like saying fish goes quite well with chips. Sarah Warwick
 
The restaurant is the brainchild of French chef Eric Chavot, who for ten years headed up the kitchens at the Capital Hotel, where he held two Michelin stars for almost a full decade before leaving in 2009 for Florida. It was, resumably, this considerable feat that led to a consensus among the eaterati that his return to open his own restaurant is not before time. Since the doors opened on 30 May the tables have been turning with alacrity.
 
Having eaten in quite a few of London’s more avant garde openings recently (Story, Grain Store, Clove Club) it was soothing to find it quite traditional, with some quirks of personality that set it apart from its fellow brasserie.
Chavot’s hotel upbringing is on display here, both in the opulant but innoffensive decor (its white columns and red banquettes are so classic as to be cliched) and in his menu. The latter is filled with the kind of Franglais food common to smart restaurants in smart London hotels since the turn of the last century and which has remained popular with an upper-crust set who like familiar food with a touch of sophistication.
 
Steak tartare with mustard, a Waldorf salad and spicy pecans and a chicken liver parfait, served with prune and fig chutney all make the cut for the starters. Nothing here to make the traditionalists gasp, but all beautifully presented and, if my companions’ faces are anything to go by, tasting divine. Ruling them all, however, is the ‘snails bourguignon, meatball and potato espuma’. Those who suspect, as I did, that the reason they love escargot is for the little oily pools of garlic butter from the traditional serving, may shy from ordering this unusual dish - and, sure, a trick might have been missed with the opportunity to dip the excellent bread (crunchy crust, with firm, yielding innards) - but it’s an inescapable hit.
 
One imagines the ex-public school boys of London coming here into their dotage for this, the ultimate comfort food: plunging their spoons through layers of creamy potato and wine-rich sauce to fish out the meaty delights. Who else would have thought to pair snails with meatballs, the former’s chewy umami-ness delighting against the yielding softness of perfectly sealed beef? It’s ecstasy.
 
Compared to this, the rib eye (one of 7 mains) is almost an anti-climax. Thick and juicy, its surface criss-crossed with lines of charred smokiness from the grill, and accompanied by lustrous garlic bone marrow and excellent paper-wrapped frites. Apart from the Bernaise sauce, whipped into a mousse, this is the Ronseal of top-end French cooking. Delicious but expected. On a return trip, I’d opt for the Daube de boeuf, garniture grand-mère (a house speciality) or Rump of Oisin venison with honey glazed root vegetables, which a fellow diner described as “dark, earthy, rich, and excellent”.
 
Before the sweets arrive on the table, we’re treated to a visit by the chef himself, a bounding ball of energy that belies his punishing schedule (he’s had two days off in four months, otherwise working from dawn to midnight daily). Despite the sleep loss, he seems delighted with the way things are going. “I have worked a long time for this,” he tells us.
 
A third course seems quite unnecessary after the first two, but luckily, as the chef is sitting with us, it would be rude not to. We opt for a selection to share, and then forget we promised to share.
 
My friends’ profiteroles, augmented with huge scoops of multicoloured home-made ice cream could probably have done justice to us all, while the rum baba was also enormous, and decadently alcoholic, providing both pudding and digestif. My lemon tart, from the daily specials list, was a deconstructed delight, with just a sliver of fine pastry, topped with piped gems of sharp, lemony goodness and tiny cylinders of crunchy meringue. A treat for both eye and lip.
 
Chavot’s back in town with food that deserves to accrue all the plaudits and longevity of his last London posting. 
 
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7 July 2013
By: Sarah Warwick
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