les deux salons
When a flurry of tweets announced Les Deux Salons’ soft launch, I, along with half of twitter, immediately scrambled online for one of the half-price opening week tables. I managed to secure (a somewhat awkwardly timed) 530pm dinner booking, so yesterday we went to scope out the new restaurant from Anthony Demetre and Will Smith (of Arbutus and Wild Honey – anointed 18th and 21st respectively at Monday night’s National Restaurant Awards), a few doors down from Terroirs.
We were greeted warmly at the reception and led to a corner seat in the spacious wood-decked bistro, where we were handed the menu and drinks lists. Having heard about the various offal offerings I was disappointed to find that dishes like the Gratin of Ox Tripe, Lamb Sweetbreads ‘Bouchée à la reine’ and Crisp Boneless Chicken Wings with Macaroni were not available during the soft opening. Nevertheless there was still a wide selection on the reduced menu so we placed our orders and surveyed the expansive 2-floor space. The feel is quite different from its sister restaurants – I would liken the interiors to a cross between that of Galvin Bistrot de Luxe and La Brasserie.
Our starters arrived promptly (as did all our subsequent dishes) – impressive, considering it was only the restaurant’s second day in full swing. That being said the restaurant was less than a quarter full, and a few of the staff were a little shaky (but this will no doubt improve with time). The kitchen however, definitely knew what they were doing – B’s well-seasoned Classic Country Terrine was rich and livery, beautifully offset by a sticky Fruit Relish. An extra (and thinner) slice or two of toast and it would have been perfect.
I enjoyed the Ravioli of Rose Veal, Fresh Goat’s Curd and Cavolo Nero – thin rounds of tender fat-laced veal wrapped around blanched greens and creamy blobs of goat’s curd, and drizzled with savoury jus. It was delicious but it did lack acid (to cut through the fat), and a small handful of dressed salad would have really helped to perk up the dish.
I suffered serious food envy when B’s main of Belly of Pork Petit Salé, Lentils and Autumn Vegetables was unveiled. It smelt, looked and tasted incredible. Juicy slabs of lightly-salted pork belly, a thick slice of garlicky sausage, tender puy lentils and sweet vegetables, cooked al dente. Pleasingly rustic yet refined at the same time.
Having indulged far too lately, I opted for a wholesome Cornish Plaice stuffed with Shrimps and Kaffir Lime. The fish was impeccably cooked, with soft and flaky flesh and a crisp golden skin. The faint notes of fragrant kaffir lime were lovely and the shrimp stuffing subtly flavoured the fish from within. Salsify and Trompettes de la Mort were an appropriate and tasty accompaniment, although the fish, moist as it was, would have benefitted from a touch of saucing.
We were spoilt for choice when it came to choosing puds, but we finally settled on sharing the Paris Brest and Rum Baba. The choux pastry on the former although airy, was unfortunately a tad overcooked. I would also have preferred a lighter and less hazelnutty Praline Cream – as it stood it was a little cloying and I struggled to finish it.
The Rum Baba served with generous shavings of pineapple, had almost no alcohol kick at all despite being trickled with rum at the table. It wasn’t a bad dessert per se – the syrup-soaked brioche itself was light and fluffy, it was just more a fruity than rum-enhanced one.
All in all, a respectable meal, with a price point not too far off from Wild Honey – our dinner for two with a bottle of red came to just under £100 (including the 50% discount on food). Service was friendly and dishes were churned out with surprising speed and ease (Will Smith himself was orchestrating on the restaurant), but it will be interesting to see how they cope running at full capacity. Les Deux Salons will no doubt become a popular destination, based and location and pedigree if nothing else, and I will certainly return to sample the offaly wonders I missed out on this time round.
Les Deux Salons
42-44 William IV Street
London WC2N 4DD
t. 020 7420 2050