There are always a few surprises when a new Michelin Guide is released. This time around I have to admit I wasn’t expecting Brasserie Chavot to be awarded a star, but I’m not sure why because they have all the credentials.
Executive chef/owner Eric Chavot previously held two stars at Capital and top critics like Jay Rayner and Giles Coren have been raving about the food at his brasserie ever since it opened earlier this year. Why then, you may be thinking, were we remotely surprised?
I know that in their quest to stay relevant, Michelin have started to recognise more and more gastro-pubs and other less formal eateries but I just didn’t think they’d award a new star to a traditional brasserie, regardless of the standard of its food.
Chavot is just that, a traditional Parisian style brasserie. The dining room is luxurious and deliberately decadent. There are chandeliers and banquettes all along one side (of course there are) and everything about it feels plush.
Our visit was on a Friday evening (prior to them being awarded the star) and were surprised to find that the atmosphere was a little stilted. This is a dining room that needs hustle and bustle but it was still only half full by the time we left. The food though, oh the food!
Given the setting, we felt compelled to order one of the quintessential brasserie dishes, steak tartare to start. I’m glad we did too because it was by far the best either of us have tasted. The meat was well seasoned and mixed with Tabasco, mustard, cornichons and capers, and topped with a lovely, runny boiled quail egg. If you’re unsure about ordering a raw dish, trust me, if you didn’t know it was uncooked, it would be hard to guess from the taste.
Both main courses were tremendous. The rump of venison was cooked a lovely medium-rare and served on top of braised vegetables and swimming in a luxuriously artery clogging sauce. On the side was a pot of wonderful jus and some crispy pommes frites for good measure. The venison was as succulent as any beef fillet and had a fabulous, slightly gamey flavour.
Not to be outdone, the daube of beef was unbelievably tender and accompanied by a buttery cloud of potato puree and a fantastic thick, meaty sauce. We also had a portion of green beans and am pleased to confirm that true to form, they came with a reassuringly French amount of garlic butter. Are you detecting a pattern here?
We probably didn’t need dessert after all this but it would’ve been a crying shame not to push the boat out. I’m delighted to say that Chavot’s Ile flottante is now one of my favourite desserts. The custard was luxuriously creamy and full of vanilla. I couldn’t get enough of it and could easily have eaten another bowlful. The poached meringue was a perfect sphere, topped with toasted almond flakes which added texture and a lovely nuttiness.
The creme brulee was also as good as any I’ve had. I’d really like to know how Chavot make their custard, sorry creme Anglais, because it’s truly sensational. These two desserts tasted quite similar and it kind of defeated the object of sharing but they were both amazing.
If you’re in search of big flavours, rich ingredients and a storming take on French brasserie food, this is the place for you. It won’t break the bank but you might need to make use of another notch on your belt by the time you leave.
It’s a shame that the restaurant wasn’t busier but hopefully that will change now they have a star. I’d love to go back and eat their delicious food with the dining room full and vibrant.
We left feeling utterly stuffed and satisfied and with that comforting thought that we’d be back. This is essentially the feeling we hope to experience after all first-visits to restaurants but trust me, it’s pretty elusive. Maybe those Michelin inspectors do know a thing or two after all.
Total cost: £141 (including wine and aperitifs)
Address: 41 Conduit St, London, W1S 2YF
Phone: +44(0)20 7183 6425
Find them on Facebook: facebook.com/brasseriechavot
Follow them on Twitter: @brasseriechavot