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From the floor up - Chavot

Eric Chavot has a smile on his face. His new “Brasserie” is rammed and people standing at the bar must compete with the babble of contented dinners. This place looks very like a Parisian Brasserie of yesteryear and a key element to that look is the floor. A team of Italian craftsmen laid the mosaic floor and it manages to make this new venture look both old-established and comfortable at the same time. It’s not a new trick, (Les Deux Salons has a very nice mosaic floor), but a floor like this is a good investment and one that gives out all the right signals. Chavot comes to Conduit Street by way of the Capital Hotel, where he has enjoyed consistent Michelin recognition, but it was telling that for many critics his “bourgeois” lunch menus were better eating than the fancier dishes worked over for the inspectors. At the Brasserie he is bouncing with enthusiasm and cooking a sort of super-charged homage to the classics, and most of the dishes are very good indeed. From the starters “Snails Bourguignon, meatballs and potato espuma” is something of a star – don’t be frightened off by the cheffy term espuma – the dish that comes to table is topped with a very light and silky mashed potato. Or there’s an excellent steak tartare; crab mayonnaise with avocado (strikingly fresh); Waldorf salad with spicy pecan nuts; a deep fried soft shell crab with whipped aioli. The main menu goes on to offer simple grills – poussin; côte de porc, honey and mustard; mini rack of lamb,
with cous cous and olive jus; and a beef ribeye with échalotes or béarnaise. Plus half a dozen dishes – from a slow cooked “Daube de Boeuf, garniture grand-mere” to roast cod with Puy lentils; an old fashioned “choucroute garni” – the cabbage not too sour and with very good Morteaux and Montpelier sausage. The filet de canette à l’orange comes with caramelised endives and is a well-balanced take on an old favourite. Pricewise the starters are between £7.50 and £11.75 while the mains tend to lie between £16 and £24 which is probably “lower middle” when viewed by the Mayfair locals. The sides are worthy of note – it is easy to feel warmly towards anywhere that does first class chips. Desserts do not disappoint. Let’s hear it for that old-timer “Café Liégoise” or a towering “Baba au rhum with crème fraiche Chantilly”, there is even a Mont Blanc to be had. Service is mustard keen and cheerful which goes a long way to reinforcing the buzz of the place. The wine list has plenty of options that are served by the glass, the pichet or the carafe as well as some suitably serious bottles to please the Mayfair crowd. It’s a real treat to see a chef having such a good time and embracing simplicity, particularly when it means that you are one of a roomful of happy customers.

Chavot, 41 Conduit Street, Mayfair, London W1S 2YF (020 7078 9577)

Charles Campion - Monday 22nd April 2013

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