The Delauney: First class service and a smile

A few months back, London was hit with a case of brasserie fever. There was Brasserie Chavot, from the long-lost and now returned Eric Chavot. There was Keith McNally’s NY import, Balthazar, (loved by many, hated by many more). Then there was Bistro Bruno Loubet (before his now trending Grain Store) and lets not forget the more established Wolseley and its more affordable offshoot, Brasserie Zedel. Finally, there’s the Delauney, which alongside the Wolseley and Brasserie Zedel, forms part of the rapidly expanding portfolio owned by restaurant magnates’ Corbin and King.

That’s an awful lot of Parisian brasseries and grand European cafes in such quick succession, all in one city. It sent both critics and bloggers off on the search for the best of the bunch. I decided, rather wisely I think, to hold off. Like a tortoise, nice and slow. Let the hares madly jump about and then I’ll slowly clamber out whilst they’re all raving on about the next food fad, which happens to be gourmet fast food and hybrid pastry/cakes (cronuts, dosants, townies etc…)

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love reading critics/blog reviews and keeping up to speed with food crazes hitting the capital, in fact it’s how I find I pass my days of late. But I also find that, that sort of word of mouth hype and social media PR has the power to taint your view considerably. So that you are no longer objective in your opinion, and instead sub/consciously swept away in the mass glorification or downright degradation of a restaurant.

I’m glad I did wait, because its true; good thing do come to those who wait. Our meal was a speedy affair, a quick pre-opera supper with an old friend. Having roasted on the bus on the way up, I was giddy with delight when I walked inside the instantly cooling establishment and was met by some very smiley hostesses.

The Delauney bills itself as a grand European cafe, and it certainly is grand inside. It oozes old world charm from the hefty marble to the stained oak panelling, the linen table cloths and napkins (which are great until you find half the lint has attached itself onto your black dress!) and of course a grand old clock face at the back.

There’s an emphasis on quality too, evident in the freshly baked bread and a plate of butter I could have gobbled up all on its own. The one thing I’ve noticed about these brasserie type establishments is a lack of side plates for your bread. What’s the deal here? Are we meant to butter bread mid-air and leave a buttered knife on the table or should we ask for a plate? I first noticed this at Brasserie Blanc some months back and here we were again in the same predicament. Is this a European thing that we Brits aren’t familiar with? Baffling.

Anyway, on to the all-encompassing menu. Whatever you’re in the mood for, you’re sure to find something to whet your appetite. Whether it’s Light salads, a sausage fest, heftier mains or even an ice cream coupe. Despite the hideously hot weather, I was famished (having only managed to wolf down a dairylea sandwich during the whole day!) and was rather tempted by the lobster roll and chips but thought better of it and opted for the seared mackerel with white bean peperonata. On the opposite end of the hunger spectrum, My friend (we’ll call him Tin Tin) wanted something lighter and chose the chopped chicken salad.

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(Apologies, I forgot to take the photo before my first morsel…did I mention I was famished!)

Tin Tin was in full praise of his salad and it looked a summery treat. Fresh, vibrant, well seasoned and dressed, he commented. My mackerel was equally pleasing, though slightly on the overcooked side. A generous three fillets placed neatly on a bed of juicy peperonata and white beans. My only complaint (apart from the tad overcooked fish) was that the peperonata was a touch too citric and needed balancing but otherwise a delight.

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Lets face it, this is a European brasserie. The food is never going to be stunningly out of this world but it is certainly good. And this is why I could never understand the hype behind the recent brasserie craze. You can predict your visit even before you’ve gone. However, one thing the Delauney does surprise you with is sincere and courteous service. Our waitress, whose name we didn’t catch unfortunately, was a treasure. I don’t think my glass was ever left to run dry. That, together with her friendly nature and jaw-breaking permanent smile, wins her a shining star from me.

So there you have it, a speedy summary of our quick but delightful meal. If you are looking for something memorable, then this is not it. If you’re looking for a reliable and hassle free refuel stop, whether it’s lunch or coffee and cake, then this is definitely the place to go.

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