Brasserie Chavot

photoSuddenly they’re everywhere. After years of rigorous suppression in favour of Italian/Spanish/Modern European/Contemporary British/Ersatz Japanese-effect pastiches, French brasseries and bistros (or is it bistrots?) are back in force. In the last fewish months the Brasserie Zedel and Cafe Colbert, Balthazar and Little Pollen Street have all opened and been packing in the customers. Most, I suspect, are drawn by ancestral, tribal memories of what French cooking used to be and is no longer, marking the cultural gastronomic tides that move quietly beneath the froth of contemporary hype and hyperbole.

And now there’s the Brasserie Chavot.

Eric Chavot is a pretty well-traveled chef – Le Manoir aux Qua Saisons, Harvey’s, The Restaurant, Chez Nico, Capital Hotel, America, Pierre Koffman’s pop-at Selfridges. He has tried a couple of solo efforts before, too – Interlude de Chavot and Chavot in the Fulham Road, These testify to his restlessness and to his talent. For the sake of the eating public, at last I hope he found the place to settle for years to come.

The Brasserie Chavot fills a wing of the Westbury Hotel, and fills it with something approaching fin de siècle (the fin of the 19th century that is) splendour: marble, mosaic flooring crystal chandeliers, mirrors and gilt, red velvet banquette seating. I love that kind of thing. They evoke happy memories, a sense of comfort verging on luxury, provide a reassurance that everything is going to be all right after all.

And all right it is. A brasserie the place may be, but it is Eric Chavot’s brasserie. The menu may be packed with old favourites – oysters with crepinette; steak tartare; choucroute; canette a l’orange; cod with lentils; daube de boeuf – but somehow M. Chavot imbues them with an individuality that year surpasses the staid originals. In most cases, he achieves this by cooking these dishes with a precision and technical brilliance that raises them to the standard of haute cuisine. Somewhat disingenuously, he says that he is only cooking the dishes that his old mother cooked. All I can say is that, if Mme Chavot cooked as well as this, I am very sorry I never got to sit at her table.

To be strictly truthful, the first time I ate the canette a l’orange, I found the duck part on the disappointing side. That was largely due to the fierce vividness of the a l’orange part. It was intense, balanced, profound, silky, penetrating and elegant, a cracker in anyone’s language. When I ate the dish a week or so later, the problem of the duck breast had been solved. It was a duck breast of inspired duckyness, a duck breast suitable to carry to fill majesty of that sauce.

The carpaccio of venison with pickled mushrooms that preceded it showed another side of M.Chavot’s kitchen personality. It was refined, graceful, and delicate, the gentle, ruminative quality of the deer lifted and heightened by the sharp punctuation marks of the mushrooms. The steak tartare which preceded that was another wonderful example of M. Chavot’s ability to re-invigorate a classic. Tiny cubes of meat were bound loosely in a mayonnaise souped up with tiny chunks of cornichons, capers, French mustard, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco. It was meaty, creamy, sharp and warm by turns.

Puddings show no slackening of standards. I could comment that the baba au rhum and coupe liegoise erred on the generous side, but that seems ungenerous on my part, and the Brsserie Chavot is the kind of place that encourages bigheartedness.

It’s still in its early days, and some things may change. The menu may broaden its scope. However, already the Brasserie Chavot shows an enviable maturity and confidence. The service is easy, charming and efficient. The food comes at a nicely judged pace. The wine list, and wine advisors, have a disarming personality. It would seem that Eric Chavot has put the lessons of all those travels to very good use indeed.

17/20

Brasserie Chavot,
41 Conduit Street,
London W1
Tel:020 7078 9577
http://brasseriechavot.com/

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One thought on “Brasserie Chavot

  1. Hi Matt

    We were speaking about you on NZ National Radio yesterday. I was being interviewed by a lovely young Irish broadcaster, Noelle Macarthy, whom we have snaffled up here (I just have anew book out a food memoir with recipes we were talking about that) and we discovered we were both fans of Matthew Fort!

    Time you visited us in New Zild!

    Keep in touch,

    Lauraine Jacobs

    _____

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