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Chez Gérard steaks out the South Bank

UPDATE: The Entente Cordiale Banquet

Here was a grand projet if ever there was one. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Entente Cordiale between France and England, Chez Gérard  hosted a number of celebratory ten course dinners. When we saw the menu we knew this was a gastronomic event we couldn't miss. So along we went to the branch of Chez Gerard  1 Watling Street, St Paul's EC4  

This a great excuse to let the staff have its head, and the brigade rose to the challenge admirably. The only failure of the evening was my belly! Portions were life-sized, and by course seven I was nearly defeated. 

A glass of Bouche Pere et Fils Champagne with Canapés
Potage de Haricots et canard confit
Petoncles (scallops) sautéed, girolles et beurre de persil
Salade de celery, agrumes, pomme verte et coriandre 
 Grilled Tuna Provençal
Sorbet Citron et Vodka
Tournedos Rossini
Chevre parcels with thyme and honey
Poached plums in red wine with damson sorbet
Cafe and Chocolate
Taylor's LBV Port or Courvoisier VSOP

Well done, Chez Gérard! L'entente, s'est bien continué

A good few years ago, Groupe Chez Gérard was a small up and coming restaurant chain to watch, but I suspect they got more interested in rolling out new venues than in looking after their food and service. A change of ownership and a new management regime happened a year ago exactly, so it was time to see if they still do "the best steak frites this side of Paris", as their old slogan boasted. 

I decided on the Prix Fixée menu, encouraged by the minimal rise of one pound on its 1998 price - vraiment Fixée! There are three dishes to choose from each of the three courses, and all of them belong on the main menu, so you don't feel as though you're a second class citizen. In any case, I was a man on a mission as I was off to hear the Nash Ensemble at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, and the South Bank Chez Gerard is conveniently opposite the rear entrance to the hall.  

Two courses would be enough on this occasion, especially as the picky bits are as good as  a starter in their own right. There were green and black olives, almonds and cashews, fresh baguette and a few slices of Poelane bread (very smart) and both beurre douce d'Isigny and (bliss) anchovy butter. The presence of all this sends an immediate signal that the restaurateur is seriously interested in hospitality.

I decided against the Onglet steak, recent memories of a tough one in Paris had put me off, but that was before I'd caught onto the fact that Gerard's beef comes from the famous Buccleuch herd in Scotland. Instead I went for the Welsh leg of lamb steak, a very generous chunk of meat, perfectly pink and tender inside and chargrilled on the edges. It came on a delicious pile of caramelised Mediterranean vegetables and a bowl of rustling matchstick chips. At the next table, another couple of concert goers were diving with gusto into the well presented fishy options from the Fixée: gravadlax followed by grilled salmon.

Of course there was creme brûlée, so I put it to the triple test: the topping was crisp and caramelised, the custard was creamy and smooth, no hints of scrambled egg here. Finally, there were tell tale black vanilla seeds, but I could have done with even more.

This was a flying visit, but the quality of the ingredients and the cooking (but not the price) were every bit as high as those at Mon Plaisir, the Soho Bistro that's long been the benchmark for this style of French restaurant in London. So what you are reading now is but a report in progress, as I shall definitely be back to try the full menu. especially the Buccleuch beef. Then,  to complete the picture, I must pop along to the Brasserie St Quentin (which spent a brief time under the rule of the old Gerard Group and has now returned to its original owner, Lord Rathcaven).

Clifford Mould April 2004

Chez Gérard South Bank

The White House, 9 Belvedere Road, London SE1  Tel: 020 7202 8470
Open seven days a week - closed for lunch on Monday and dinner on Sunday

Prix Fixée Menus available at both lunch and dinner for £13.50 for two courses and £16.75 for three. Dishes on the set menu are also on the a.l.c. menu, so you don't get to feel like the poor relation!

UK Restaurant Reviews – The Best Of The Dine Online Restaurant Reviews 2001 - 2010

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