In theatreland, Christmas is always heralded by one of two things – the inaugural Christmas pantomime and the Christmas ballet. One is a joyful evening filled with beautiful, graceful and talented performers, the other is a pantomime… I know they have a place, but pantomimes are my theatrical version of a living hell (Yes he is behind you, just turn around properly you fool!). Rant over.
I love the ballet and this year I decided to treat my flatmate to an early Christmas present (it was the ballet in case you hadn’t guessed). Luckily enough, The Coliseum was hosting Carlos Acosta and guests from the Royal Ballet in a showcase of performances to celebrate his 26 years on stage. The timing was perfect – Acosta is a favourite of both mine and Danni’s and as such presented the perfect Christmas event, filled with poise and passion and most importantly, no audience participation. Carlos Acosta: A Classical Selection, here we come! First things first though, dinner and Les Deux Salons was calling.
I do enjoy a French brasserie, but London (and especially the West End) is full of them – Cote Brasserie, Le Garrick, Boulevard Brasserie, the list goes on. I’ve tried them all and honestly, I can’t remember any single establishment well enough to distinguish between them – they all seem to blur into one fairly bland experience. Les Deux Salons feels different; it combines the all-day cafe with bistro, brasserie and an adorable shop where you can buy some of the products. Yes the last bit sounds a bit Carluccio’s, but the atmosphere in this place is somehow more authentic vs. the other anglicised versions.
I came to Les Deux Salons once for a theatre press event to celebrate some new productions at the Garrick Theatre (round the corner from The Coliseum), nibbling on amuse bouche and sipping average white wine – all very sophisticated. Nearby to the theatre and fairly large, it seemed a good pick for a pre-theatre restaurant location.
Perusing the menu, we noticed there was a pre-theatre option… If you look a bit closer it wasn’t exactly extensive. So we decided that it would be fine to stick to the à la carte menu and aim for mains and dessert. I’m a dessert person myself (especially French desserts) and didn’t want to run the risk of ordering starter and then being too full – it’s such a dilemma sometimes! So I decided to rank Les Deux Salons against my other brasserie experiences and went for coq au vin – a fairly simple French dish that any bistro worth its salt should have no problems with at all. My flatmate heard that the Plat Du Jour contained salmon and pounced on it!
Despite the etiquette of pairing wine with food, we settled on sharing a carafe of white wine. I know what the sommeliers amongst you are thinking, but I just didn’t fancy red wine and justified it to myself with the old ‘well it’s white meat I’m having and it just makes sense with Danni’s fish’ – well it convinced me at the time. A swift order later and we were sampling the 2014 Viognier. Now I’m not one to claim extensive knowledge on the subject of wines, but this was full-bodied and fruity, which tick both boxes in my book.
Mains took a while to arrive, I must say, not a lot of praise for the service here. Very friendly and welcoming, but not the quickest – considering the bistro wasn’t full and it was a pre-theatre time I do have an issue with this. But eventually they did arrive and I was not disappointed. With some accompanying roast winter vegetables, the coq au vin was an intense flavour – moist chicken with meaty lardons and sweet little onions all rounded out with a rich & heady red wine sauce. I’ve had this dish where the liquid has all boiled off and the sauce is too thick, I’ve had it where they have overdone the wine and it’s a bit acrid. This was a wonderful balance – I made all the right yummy noises. The salmon that Danni had was well cooked and flakey but in my mind was nothing special. I do love salmon but when eat out I want to sample something I wouldn’t typically cook at home.
I reaffirmed my decision not to order starters when I saw the dessert menu and spent a good 5 minutes trying to justify ordering every dish on it to my ever-expanding waistline. Tarte tatin came a close second, but it had to be crème brûlée this time (it’s my mum’s favourite dessert, she must have been whispering in my ear). Danni decided on the same, which irked me slightly – I have this strange need to always order different to everyone else on the table, just in case we want to sample each other’s meals. Once again, I have had a lot of crème brûlées in my time – this one had a good crack on top (I prefer a little bit thicker) and a nice vanilla flavour to the custard underneath. Texture wise it was fine and well set, my personal preference is to have it slightly runnier (which I admit is against the norm).
So, a pre-theatre dinner verdict? We were seated at 18:00, 2 courses and out by 19:20 (they had some serious issues with the card machine). Time – average
Pre-theatre dinner menu choice was non-existent, but the main menu was sufficiently broad and the food tasty to make up for it. Food – good
It’s around the corner from The Coliseum, the Garrick Theatre, the Duke of York’s Theatre and the Noel Coward Theatre and so perfect if you want to catch shows at any of these. Location – excellent
Les Deux Salons
40-42 William IV Street, London WC2N 4DD
020 7420 2050