The area around Sloane Square is notoriously rubbish for finding decent food. That’s apparently also what Earl Cadogan thought when he ate at Oriel, a brasserie directly on Sloane Square. He hated the experience so much that he refused to prolong Oriel’s lease (the powers of a landlord). I am totally with Earl Cadogan. Oriel was an appalling place – the food was pricey and bad, the atmosphere stuffy and the waiting stuff an arrogant bunch of xxx. I remember with shame the day when I had a first date with someone from match.com at Oriel and ended up knocking over my glass of white wine. It suffices to say that the guy did not exactly defend me against Oriel’s waiters (he was a complete waste of time) and after this episode I refused to ever set foot again into dreadful Oriel.
Colbert however, which now occupies the space formerly infested by Oriel, will certainly meet the Lord’s needs. It is run by Chris Corbin and Jeremy King who have built up a small London restaurant dynasty by now: The Wolseley, The Delaunay, Brasserie Zedel and now Colbert.
I think they will be equally successful with Colbert as they have been with their other restaurants. Reasonably priced French comfort food together with the bright and friendly atmosphere, the endearing waiters (we had a middle-aged French lady serving our table who was very opinionated and knowledgable about food) and the fact that breakfast is served all day is without doubt a winning concept.
Don’t get me wrong, the food was by no means outstanding, but it was the kind of food that you would expect in a bistro in France and it felt good and comfortable like a pair of old shoes.
The meal already started well with 2 complementary thin, freshly baked slim baguette flutes, still warm from the oven, served with creamy French butter. We shared Bayonne Ham with Celeriac Remoulade (7.9) as a starter. I have developed a taste for Bayonne ham since I visited Bayonne in the French Basque region last autumn and Colbert’s ham was very good, even though I could have done with a couple more slices to be honest. I was surprised at how much I liked the combination of the salty ham with celeriac and mayonnaise considering that I usually like neither celeriac nor mayonnaise.
The simple and hearty Cassoulet de Toulouse au Confit de Canard (14.25) is a French bistro classic. This stew of haricot beans, mild sausage and duck confit was warming and tasty and that is exactly the kind of food you want to live on when the days are getting shorter and the temperature drops. The second main was a healthier and more summery option, Chicken Paillard (9.95) which was just simply a very well cooked piece of tender and juicy chicken.
We had to rush off to the theatre, so we couldn’t sample any of the desserts at this occasion. People around us were tucking into delectably looking coupes de glace and tarts, and I’ll make sure to try some of these next time. As I almost certainly will be back!
- Food: 7/10
- Ambiance: 8/10
- Value for Money: 8/10
- Service: 8/10
- Chances of returning: 80%
- Verdict: Colbert is a feel good kind of place. Simplicity rules!