Les 110 de Taillevent. Bank on it.
I’d done a double take when I’d seen the hoardings around the old Coutts building with the word Taillevent plastered over them. It couldn’t be something to do with the legendary Taillevent restaurant in Paris, I thought, not here, opposite the back entrance of John Lewis.
But I was wrong. Brand Taillevent was never going to venture into in the grungy gastropub arena, so you will not be surprised to learn that this is a formal brasserie, the twist being the one hundred and ten wines (the “110” in the name) served by the glass.
Targeting a similar clientèle to its predecessor in title, this is an elegant, grown-up space, richly decorated with dark wood, double height windows and velvet curtains I got tangled up in, on my way out, elegant as ever.
I know immediately I try the pailles au fromage (cheese straws to you) that I am in safe hands. I quickly concertina two into my mouth, whilst C is otherwise occupied.
The menu is straightforward, once you understand the concept. There are nine starters and twelve mains, set out in single lines. Each course has four recommended wines by the glass, which can be ordered in 70ml or 125ml sizes. For the 125ml, prices range from under £8, to under £14, under £20 and then over £20. You could easily choose two or three wines with each course, should you feel the urge.
The food is classically French and a dish of crab remoulade (£16) with dill and fennel was presented in retro-style layers in a martini glass, with a gelée at the base and the creamy crab above. The recommended Saint-Peray “Les Pins” 2013 (£12) was perfect. C’s langoustine ravioli with foaming basil and citrus butter won’t win any prizes for modern dish of the year, but was a gorgeous plateful at £12.
I’m not sure I’d have ordered the vegetables, heritage carrots, olive oil (£17) were I not already feeling rather Bessie Bunter from the pre-Christmas binge-fest, but I’m glad I did. Yes, it was just a plateful of carrots, but magically elevated into a sophisticated dish of differing textures, flavours and temperatures, the puréed carrot forming a dense, rich backdrop to caramelised, steamed and shaved carrots. Superbe.
I had been worried about the lack of caloric substance so I had sneaked in a last-minute of macaroni cheese, jambon de Paris, Emmental and trompettes de mort. Magnifique. Order it.
There was a mix up with C’s order, so they took away the pretty-as-a-picture sea bass, lemon olive oil dressing (£26), presented whole, split open and filled with vegetables. Apologising, they went off to get the cod, steamed, tartar of seaweed and lemon thyme (£19). They did suggest we keep the sea bass anyway but Mr–measured-in-all-things said no. When he finally got the cod, he wished he’d kept the sea bass.
It was a rather more austere dish, the sort you’d be really happy with on a self-punishing low carb diet and it came with unadvertised capers, which are on his hate-list. The mashed potatoes which came with it were that half-butter half-potato variety and thus entirely beyond one’s ability to resist.
C ordered the chocolate mousse, served hot, with 70% cacao hot sauce and a chocolate sorbet. My smugface in not ordering dessert was wiped clean as, by way of apology for the fish failure, they gave us
Remembering our childhood is not a title immediately bound to appeal to me and I suspect that a selection of Vimto, Angel Delight and neglect may not work quite so well. Their version of childhood is obviously much happier and comprises chocolate mousse, rice pudding, floating islands and crème caramel and I managed to force myself. No one likes a dirty plate.
Summing Up: An accomplished brasserie with sophisticated food, mainly classics, executed to a high standard for the price point. The wine by the glass concept is attractive and whilst not unique, very welcome to the more moderate drinkers amongst us. They also do breakfast from 7:30am and I’m already looking forward to trying their Viennoiserie. The service could do with a little polishing up, but notwithstanding the glitches, they do try. Perfect for entertaining in a swish gaff at relatively modest expense, it’s a welcome oasis in the dining desert around Cavendish Square.