So we sat down, held our impecunious breath and had a look at the menu. It seemed to be standard French fare. I went for the calves liver and polenta and my friend went for the beef bavette. We then waited. In the time that it took the main courses to arrive we demolished three baskets of bread which they just kept refilling and we for no good reason kept eating. This is definitely not a complaint and is a recommendation of their service. Also, good bread.
My calves liver didn’t really inspire me. It was a little feeble in taste and portions. I feel that calves liver is one of those dishes which should be robust and knock you about a bit. My friend’s bavette looked a whole lot better and was done enticingly rare. That said, she was also a little ho-hum about it.
Jay Rayner’s review in the Guardian on La Chapelle said the rhum baba was “quite simply the best I’ve ever eaten, and as I’m a sucker for light sponge soaked in sugar syrup and liquor I’ve eaten far too many. I order it in the hope of finding something light and ethereal, that extraordinary balance of a savarin robust enough to soak up gallons of syrup, yet light enough to fall apart on the tongue. This one does exactly that. Think kisses from kittens and the brush of angel’s wings on a baby’s pert cheeks, and all the other much-loved Athena poster motifs“.
Well having read that explosion of words I had to give it a go so I ordered one. Hmmm. Jay Rayner was sitting in the La Chapelle and therefore would have paid that extra three pounds which must have changed things a lot (and I presume being recognised as Jay Rayner never hurts). It was good, but not something I’ld return to and definitely not as good as a kitten.
Finally, the ambience. The Cafe felt a bit like an upmarket newbuild. Which it is. As opposed to my glimpses of La Chapelle which looked magnificant. Anyway lesson learnt, don’t go to the mid market offshoot, just go to the proper place.
- Price – £25ish per head without effective drinking and two courses.
- 35 Spital Sq, City of London E1 6DY
PS if you have read this you should probably read my later review of my visit to La Chapelle here.
PPS Cafe de Luxe has now become Cafe a Vin (presumably to avoid confusion with the Luxe bar).