London Larder was devised in 2012 to bring you the ultimate eating and drinking guide to London. It was borne out of a need for up-to-date, quantitative and whole-heartedly recommended places to eat and drink.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Brasserie Joel


Very few people can get away with only using a single name to get by. It has never held back Madonna or Cher, and footballers Ronaldo, Raul and Xavi have all built global reputations without surnames. Chef Joël Antunès is also looking to break into this crowd with his eponymous South Bank restaurant, Brasserie Joël. Based within the giant, ultra-modern confines of the Park Plaza hotel at the south end of Westminster Bridge, the Brasserie marks the return to London of the Michelin-starred chef after a few years in the US and judging by the quality of the food we tasted on our visit, his return could not have come soon enough.

Having made his name at Mayfair's Les Saveurs (where he won his Michelin award), Antunès built a reputation for serving French cuisine of the very highest quality. After working in Georgia and New York, his return to open Brasserie Joël has been largely well-received, and he has since also opened Kitchen Joël Antunès at The Embassy in Mayfair, with the Brasserie under the stewardship of his more than capable deputy, Walter Ishizuki.

The venue itself is somewhat cold and clinical, not unsurprising given that it is housed within a large business hotel. The modernist decor is very sleek, all minimalist lines and vivid lighting. The atmosphere is somewhat muted though with a fair number of solo diners. Still, if one was away from home and looking for a way to pass the time, you could do far worse than a restaurant of this calibre. We started our meal with the Dorset crab and mango salad with orange and basil dressing and the duck terrine. The crab used was primarily white meat, giving it a subtle taste allowing the mango to complement it without the overly fishy punch associated with the darker meat. The duck terrine was a dream, rough cut and chunky and served with toast. A light dish perfect for a warm evening, the taste was delicately smoked and rich.

Having warmed up our appetite, our main courses were with us shortly. The beef bourguignon was hearty and delicious, prepared in that deliciously precise French way. Every element had been thought through and prepared well, from the slow cooked tender beef, to the tiny baby carrots and rich sauce. To accompany it, we ordered a very generous portion of potato gratin dauphinoise: creamy and probably very naughty. We also sampled the rack of lamb, accompanied by a side of green beans. Juicy and moist, the meat was perfectly medium rare, a tender pinkish shade that melted in the mouth.

Just when you think things can't get any better, we were presented our desserts which had been recommended by our very friendly and efficient waiter. The raspberry mille feuille was the freshest possible fruit sandwiched between layers of tasty choux pastry, and the hot chocolate fondant was sublime; moist cake containing a velvety rich liquid chcoclate centre.

Overall, the food was faultless. We could happily eat at Brasserie Joël every day for a week and work through the entire menu, and the service is excellent, polite and attentive without being overbearing. The atmosphere certainly livened up later in the evening, but the only thing holding back the restaurant from full marks is the slightly sterile ambiance. We'd certainly be able to overlook that for quality food like this though, and will certainly be back soon.

Park Plaza Hotel, Westminster Bridge, SE1 7UT

Average price for main course: £15
Average price for a glass of wine: £8.50
Food/drink: 5/5
Service: 5/5
Value: 4/5

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