Le Chalet. On top of the world.
You know that thing, where you can’t decide where to go on holiday for Christmas and there are so many choices and what about Cornwall but there’s all those unused air miles and it would be lovely to go somewhere hot but really it’s double the price at this time of year and then you end up staying at home, doing absolutely nothing, other than cooking for the rest of your family even though they have told you not to go to any trouble. That.
So, full of Christmas cheer at my busiest time of the year I need to find something to do to take my mind off the holiday #fail, something that doesn’t involve standing round in an overcrowded bar, having drinks with people I barely know just because it’s Christmas. All those events, the ones that looked perfectly reasonable in your diary way back at the beginning of November now seem like cruel and unusual punishment, inflicted on you by your (formerly) sociable self.
Maybe it’s only lawyers who hate the run-up to Christmas, with its last-minute deadlines coinciding with the office cough, steadily hacking its way round the firm. We pen-pushers need to escape to somewhere bright and cheerful, perhaps an Alpine hideaway, where we can wrap ourselves in blankets and eat such treats as raclette, or eggnog snow egg, whilst sipping glühwein. Fantasy, you say?
Fortunately, such a place exists within four minutes walk of my office, glory be to God and it is called Le Chalet. A pop-up (of course), an outpost of Q Grill in Camden, this semi-open structure sits on the very top of Selfridges, away from all that selling. It’s not easy to find. There’s a special lift with an unmarked button, which takes you all the way to the 5th floor. It’s near the perfume department at the front of the store. So far, so Harry Potter.
Down a narrow tacky/pretty passageway, lined with bunched twigs is the front desk. If you are my friend B, you will manage to get your hair caught in one of them. Step up to the restaurant and you see clear plastic running along the front of the restaurant, which is part marquis, part lean-to. I imagine that on a warm-ish day they open it up and you can then see the teeming hordes. Tip: get a table near the entrance, not near the bar or the grill itself. There are blankets on the chairs, in case of draughts. The décor is very alpine. There are skis on the wall.
Naturally, we start with the glühwein, as it is a grim, cold winter’s evening and G, my companion already has the office cough. G is an accountant and where they lead, lawyers follow.
The menu is fairly conventional and whilst it has a few nods to Chalet cooking it is mostly of the modern, not-quite-from-anywhere variety, including steak and burger offerings, a spelt risotto and a fish curry. My first course of endive & pear salad, shaved pecorino, hazelnuts was a great example of a simple salad but one that is so easy to get wrong. Two types of endive added colour and it was enormous for a starter portion, which is not a complaint, in case you were wondering. Good dressing and with fresh ingredients including lots of toasted hazelnuts, this was well-executed and I realised that this wasn’t your average gimmicky restaurant.
Both of us ordered the buttermilk chicken schnitzel, with blue cheese fondue, which came with a coleslaw side. Soft, succulent and again, rather large, this was a great dish and good value for £16.50. The schnitzel was crisp and the chicken moist. I liked the blue cheese fondue dip. It worked. I could easily have ordered the crisp rosemary potatoes or the spiced chips but I am already in the unstructured dresses and we haven’t even started the Christmas cookfest.
For this reason I also said no to the apple streusel tart with lashings of custard. Lashings. A word we ought to use more on menus. And then there was the steamed chocolate & toffee sponge which had my name on it but I looked away.
This restaurant has a sense of fun and is a great place to escape from the hell that is Selfridges Christmas Emporium. If nothing else, I love it for the choctails. Hot chocolate cocktails, natch and mine’s the hazelnut and almond liqueur, with dark chocolate, but you could have the orange one, or the one with the Courvoisier. If you’re being really decadent, you could also have a cigar, from their very wide selection. See? I told you: Fantasyland.
PS It’s there till February. Not sure exactly when though.
PPS You can have breakfast there too. Stand-out dish looks to be waffles with caramelised bananas. Why wouldn’t you?