A Tasting Evening at the brilliant Brasserie Chavot
Ever since opening its doors in 2013, Chef Eric Chavot’s eponymous Brasserie Chavot has gone from strength to strength. The French-inspired cuisine here, which draws upon Chavot’s hometown of Arcachon and time-honoured dishes from across the terroirs of France, has continued to receive praise from diners and critics alike. All of this has culminated in the award of its first Michelin star in 2014, adding to Chavot’s growing collection of Michelin stars held previously at The Capital in Knightsbridge and Chavot in Fulham. Last month, I was lucky enough to be invited along with a group of journalists and food writers to an exclusive Tasting evening to sample Chef Eric’s creations.
Located on Conduit Street in an adjoining space to the Westbury Hotel, Brasserie Chavot’s intricate art-nouveau tiles, deep-red leather banquettes and sparkling chandeliers ooze of opulence and grandeur. But if you thought the writing was on the wall for a stiff, silver service meal, think again. Bold, rustic flavours and large, family-style dishes served in the middle for sharing were a reminder that we were in for an evening of French comfort food like no other.
The tasting menu kicked off with a seemingly endless selection of starters and salads, led out by none other than their signature soft-shell crab dish. Served with a punchy citrus and saffron aioli dip, the soft-shell crab was incredibly meaty and coated in the crispest and lightest of batters.
I’m not usually one to rave about salads, but the salads here at Brasserie Chavot are quite simply sensational. All of them had an incredible lightness and freshness to them not normally associated with classical French food. Heirloom tomatoes, some of the sweetest I’ve ever tasted were served with aubergine crisps, marinated anchovies and a beautifully balanced basil vinaigrette. Tender, chargrilled octopus was served over a bed of peas, shoots and broad beans so fresh you would think they came straight from vegetable garden to table. Surprisingly, the star of the salad show for me was the humble Strasbourgeoise-style potato salad. The light, creamy dressing had a wonderful citrus note to it whilst the smoked meats added yet another dimension of flavour. The sheer quality of ingredients here doesn’t lie and this was a masterclass in how to make salads enticing, even for the most stubborn of carnivores.
The quality in the cooking continued into the main dishes. Sea bream fillets, served with a delicately spiced Raita were pan-fried to perfection – the skin crisp and the flesh still moist. Moreish Lamb Pastillas, stuffed with tender, melt-in-the-mouth meat were encased in the crunchiest of filo pastry. For the carnivores round the table, there was their Med-inspired meat platter of Spiced Lamb Chops and Merguez sausage – bursting with North-African spices and smoky, chargrilled flavour.
And I haven’t even gotten started on my two favourite dishes of the evening. No country-style French feast would be complete without the venerable Cassoulet. Chavot’s Cassoulet sports melt-in-the-mouth Pork Belly and Duck confit, plump haricot beans and a rich depth of flavour in it’s meaty gravy like no other. Served with rustic pieces of grilled bread slathered with parsley and garlic puree, I mopped every morsel of meat and the last drop of gravy off my plate till it was squeaky clean. And who can forget their exquisite Fish Bourride – a surprise course from the kitchen. A seafood stew similar to Bouillabaise, the Bourride here was overflowing with shrimp, scallops and fish. Every mouthful was an explosion of rich, shellfish goodness, no doubt a testament to the kilograms and kilograms of shellfish trimmings that have been boiled, reduced and gone into the making of it. Every single diner that evening was left cooing and purring after each spoonful of the Bourride.
A selection of desserts ranging from a textbook perfect Baba au Rum to a beautifully crafted lemon tarte brought proceedings to a very happy end all round. The combination of boozy chantilly cream and fresh pineapple served with the Baba was the icing on the most memorable of French feasts. To have savoured such an immense range of intricately prepared yet hearty tasting dishes speaks to the talent and calibre of Chef Eric and his kitchen brigade.
As fabulous as the food was, the experience wouldn’t be half as fun if it weren’t for the incredible hospitality of Chef Eric and his friendly front of house team. Kudos to their sommelier Andreas, whose concisely explained wine recommendations brought out the best in the food – the Argentinian Torrontez and Crozes-Hermitage Syrah were particularly memorable. But it was Chef Eric’s charisma, passion and energy throughout the evening which really won our hearts. One moment he was ferrying dishes straight out of the kitchen to us in an excited frenzy… the next, he was babbling away in the thickest of French accents about the Bouillabaise whilst spoon-feeding (literally!) another fellow diner. His personal touch made for a truly remarkable evening on the whole.
Classical French cuisine in London simply doesn’t get any better than this.
41 Conduit Street,W1S 2YF, Mayfair, London | www.brasseriechavot.com | Tuesday August 12th 2014
p.s. My thanks again to the team at Brasserie Chavot for the invitation.
* theboywhoatetheworld was a guest of the restaurant. All views expressed are my own.