Brasserie Zedel (August 2013)

Make no doubt, this is a highly impressive venue, and all the more so for being but a stone’s throw from Piccadilly Circus. On the site of the former Atlantic Bar & Grill (and originally a hotel car park in an early incarnation), Brasserie Zédel is a superb homage to 1920’s Art Déco glamour. Despite the somewhat nondescript entrance, descend the stairs and one is transported back the best part of a century, and conceivably into France. Think high ceilings, chandeliers, and other similarly grand statements. Despite the sheer size of the place – and this is part of what wows the diner – there is none of the anonymity (nor noise) that one might expect. So far so good, and the pricing is certainly eye-catching too: a two-course set menu for just £9, starters priced from £2-13 (and most around the £4-6 point), mains at £8-20 (averaging £12). However, a great venue and compelling prices doesn’t constitute an excuse for both indifferent service and food. In terms of the former, our main waiter’s attitude bordered on sarcasm throughout and in general, service times were achingly slow – ok, it’s a big and busy restaurant, but if you accept this, then employ more staff. I (and perhaps other diners too) might not mind paying a little more for our food in exchange for slightly better service and indeed higher quality dishes. Zédel may work on the principle of ‘something for everyone’ with around 20 different starters and a similar number of mains. In reality, this translates as the law of diminishing returns: the greater the options, the lower the overall quality. The inverse might make more sense and indeed many in our group found their dishes to be little more than average. Indeed, one member of our party found her vol-au-vent pastry sufficiently hard going that she was unable to finish it. My own herring starter was pleasant even if the potatoes were a somewhat unnecessary addition while my main of spicy Merguez sausage was better, even if I was provided with an absurdly large knife with which to dissect it. I am sure Zédel will succeed since there will always be enough one-time tourists, theatre-goers and large groups around and attracted by the price. In this location, maybe garnering repeat business matters less, but I would prefer to see Zédel simplifying its menu, upping its prices and hopefully, correspondingly, its quality.