The Royal Wedding has spread the feeling of pride and patriotism for our iconic monarchy and all things British. The nation watched the nuptials from decorated living rooms, chilly parks and bunting-festooned street parties, washed it down with champagne, Pimms and G&Ts, gossiped about the dress, Pippa and Beckham over barbecued sausages and party rings, and danced the day away to old school Elton John and Wham!
So it was actually a refreshing change when I was asked to sample the new spring menu at Chez Gerard, in Charlotte Street, London. That doesn’t mean my patriotism is a bit hungover from all the festivities (who won the golden egg at mydeco’s wedding quiz, eh?) – but there’s only so much excitement I can show for cucumber sandwiches and Victoria sponge…
And this invitation comes at a time when I’ve been feeling a bit French – and no, I’m not talking about last night’s hot date. In the last couple of months I’ve noticed Parisian architectural drama seeping out from detailed wrought iron furniture and dark sideboards; Provençal feminine shutters, pared down country kitchen tables and simple ceramics; and stripy ‘oh la la’ seaside accessories whispering ‘take me to the Côte d’Azur’.
As with any restaurant, there’s always pros and cons to the evening. I sampled the spring menu, Chez Prix Fixe, where every dish sounds light, refreshing and delicious – salade au saumon fumé, suprême de volailles farci aux champignons, maqeureau moutarde, à la Provençale, glaces et sorbets, tarte au citron…
Image credit: blog.fluidlondon.co.uk
My boyfriend went for the smoked salmon salad, followed by steak and chips and lemon tart. Verdict? 8/10. Perfect portion sizes, melt-in-the-mouth steak cooked to perfection, crispy frites and zingy tart to finish. It does seem to be very fashionable for vegetables to be an ‘extra’ when eating out these days… and luckily we’d ordered a side of green beans to boost our five a day and to give the mains some colour.
My tastebuds weren’t as pampered; surprisingly the chicken liver and pork terrine, followed by baked mackerel fillets were actually quite tasteless. I’d always had flavoursome, rich mackerel, but then again the menu is designed to be light and refreshing. Verdict? 5/10.
The service was excellent (9/10) – the waitress was friendly but didn’t constantly pander at the table, we were served deliciously soft olives and bread while we chose our meal and the Merlot was beautiful (8/10) – and half a bottle later I felt very relaxed and quite unsteady on the stairs, to be honest!
Image credit: Chez Gerard
The highlight of Chez Gerard was the seating arrangement. Ensconced within wood panelling, the tables and booth seats are perfect for a romantic dinner. You feel sufficiently concealed within your dinner-out bubble, yet not too tucked away from the atmosphere and fellow diners (admit it, we all love people watching).
Our ‘booth’ sat two but the table was big enough for four, with the top extending out from the wall into the restaurant allowing for plenty of table room for wine, water, condiments, side plates etc. I hate it when everything fights for space and you end up watching your wine glass like a hawk, hoping your knife won’t knock it over.
The most annoying aspect was the wall light. As great as it looked – polished brass overhanging the table – it peered down inbetween us a little too much and it was most certainly the uninvited guest, constantly butting into our conversation. I’m not very tall, but if my eye-line was only an inch or two higher it would have been smack in the middle of our faces. No bad thing if your blind date requires a good few bottles of rouge to become a handsome monsieur, I guess.
Top tips to recreate your own romantic spring dinner, French style:
Go al fresco and enjoy the warm evening breeze and sun set. Ahhhh. Set up a cosy dinner for two with a patio table and just a couple of chairs complete with soft cushions. A white tablecloth and dinky vase with a single rose. OK, so this is tarting to sound very clichè… how to add some va va voom?
A pair of flamboyant, colourful and ornate champagne flutes from Laurence Llewellyn Bowen; a top hat ice bucket for said champagne; a stripy French table runner from RE; quirky olive bowls, serving dishes and bread basket; hanging lanterns; and simple plates to show off your entree saumon salade, juicy rump steak with de terre nouvelle (always a winner) and tarte ua citron. Simple yet delicious.
Ellie was mydeco.com's fabulous Editor for three years, and is now off exploring South America. Read more posts by Ellie.