I’M now all paranoid about The Delaunay after greatly enjoying this new grande dame of a brasserie on Aldwych.
I’ve found the critic from the Metro was less than enamoured. Mightily patronised at The Ivy, cruelly frozen out at The Wolseley, he now feels almost grateful at Chris Corbin and Jeremy King’s latest venture to be upgraded a table near the loos – and that only after kicking up a fuss.
So was this perceived ingrained pecking order why we, a parochial pair with straw in our hair and a tin bath back home, got consigned to a table sans napery in the foyer area of this expansive Fin de Siecle Salon meets Viennese Cafe with a hint of Orient Express?
We did have a good view of a heaving board of gateaux and viennoiseries and access to a rack of dailies (tycoon poisoned by cat meat a Times page lead proclaimed – it was in China, not just off the Strand). We just weren’t at the centre of the celeb action. For all we knew, Pippa Middleton could have been snogging Nick Clegg at Michael Winner’s usual table. Yes, it is that kind of place. Open only a nano-second and already this Wolseley Mark II has “usual table” or “reserved booth” written all over it.
We hadn’t booked. We slipped in past the top-hatted doorman on a whim to snaffle a light lunch before the National’s One Man, Two Guvnors at the Adelphi. The front desk forgave us for not booking and assigned us to a corner we were more than happy with. There were still enough mirrors, gilt and Vermeer floor tiles around us to satisfy the average sybarite. Further back the main drag was heaving and there was maybe a hint of braying at the Big Clock end.
To our right in the “cheap seats” an air-hostessy kind of lass was savouring coffee and Sachertorte. To her right, a vaguely donnish gent was splashing his pink cashmere sweater as he negotiated a pot of moules mariniere. As I swiveled to try to capture on camera the Delaunay’s whole high end take on cafe society the quite unsnooty trio behind us offered to duck. “Sorry, Magnus is too tall”.
I’m sure our waiter – I imagine he’s called Alphonse, say – didn’t mistake us for the great and good, but he was kindness personified, swift to pour my glass of Pinot d’Alsace ‘Metiss’ 2008 Domaine Bott Geyl. There were 20 wines by the glass cheaper than its £9 tag but it seemed appropriate to accompany the Choucroute A l’Alsacienne I craved.
Tut, Alphonse did forget to summon up (the Delaunay, though lower key than the Wolseley on Piccadilly, invites that kind of verb) the ice and lemon my wife requested for her Badoit. We forgave him. I told her she should have gone for the Sizerac absinthe and cognac cocktail.
The 2008 Metiss is biodynamic, a grape mix of a third pinot blanc, a third pinot auxerrois, the rest pinot gris and pinot noir vinified white. It reeked of honey but was bone dry on the palate with a lingering minerality. Perfect for smoked dishes, it was perhaps too good for my Choucroute on its salver.
A slightly steep £16 for a modest mound of sauerkraut with boiled spuds and various fatty and fabricated pork products, it still seemed right for the moment – with Archduke Ferdinand about to be assassinated in Sarajevo or Rosenkavalier premiered.
Yes, it’s definitely a Viennese whirl. The Delaunay roll call of dishes such Schnitzel, Stroganoff, Liverwurst, Berner Wurstel, Apple and Marzipan Strudel shrieks Mitteleuropa mission statement – with nods to our our own dear comfort food such as Oysters, Kedgeree, Lancashire Hotpot, Omelette Arnold Bennett and Banana Split.
My wife’s choice was Spatchcocked Poussin with Salsa Verde (£14.25). What a piece of spatchcocking it was, I’d like to say, but the chicken in green sauce was quite bland, rescued by its earthy side of sprouts and chestnuts (£3.75).
Like the Wolseley, it’s definitely a place to drop in on for posh refuelling at odd times. Not a full dinner. We once supped Provencal fish soup at the Piccadilly big brother post-Macbeth at nearly midnight. Certainly this all day operation is perfect for breakfast, brunch or coffee and cake.
The Delaunay, 55 Aldwych, London WC2B 4BB (020 7499 8558, www.thedelaunay.com). Visit the website for opening times.
Neil Sowerby travelled to London with Virgin Trains, which runs up to 50 trains a day between Manchester and London. For details of services and fares, including special promotions, visit www.virgintrains.co.uk. For timetable information ring National Rail Enquiries 08457 48 49 50.
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