FIFTY SHADES OF GRAVY CONTINUED
As I continue upon my path as a gastro-submissive I notice that the old site where Oriel used to be has finally reopened. Oriel was a favourite hangout of mine throughout the Eighties and Nineties. We loved to complain about the less than average food served by surly waiters with a lousy attitude, then in January 2008 the Earl of Cadogan stopped by for lunch and decided he was to eat his last dreadful meal there: exercising his right as landlord of the property, he decided not to renew the lease to the restaurant group Tragus (who also own Café Rouge.)
I was sorry to see this bastion of my youth close and like many residents was eagerly awaiting its replacement. So after eighteen months of refurbishment the understated and terribly smart Colbert appears. I breathe a sigh of relief when I hear the site has been handed to Rexra (the group who run The Wolesley and The Delaunay), and who better to pull off this coup than Jeremy King and Chris Corbin?
What a perfect haven Colbert is. The interior is distinctly French, reminding me of Le Vaudeville in Paris, and indeed on their websites it does say that Colbert has been inspired by the great brasseries of France, but more than being a typical brasserie with its elegant bar area, casual dining at the back and two further dining areas, it is an intimate idyll.
Pictured above: French posters on the wall of Colbert, Sloane Square
If you can, try and nab a table at the back (good for celeb spotting). The vibe is traditional: dark woods, red banquets, linen table cloths, tiled floors and thankfully no music, for I strongly believe a good restaurant should not need music. There is a nod in its artwork to next door’s Royal Court Theatre and many French touches which create a sense of relaxed elegance.
I had at my side a suitably impressed Monsieur Le Gris who, casting his eye over the wine list, immediately remarked on how attentive and astute our French maitre d’ was. Relieved at the positive start, he ordered two glasses of Bollinger “for my little British gal” but was quick to point out that Comte Armand was incorrectly spelt on the wine list. Despite this little erreur he seemed delighted at the choice of wines, many of which can be ordered by the glass, and applauded the Réserve du Patron list which he said reflected a knowledgeable and tasteful team.
The menu, although extensive did leave me somewhat perplexed. Colbert serves food all day and will take orders until 11pm (a godsend in this neck of the woods) but there are an awful lot of eggs and Croque Monsieurs and perhaps not enough of what one would want to eat in the evening.
I would have liked to see a few Wolseley favourites added here such as game, more fish or even kedgeree. We started with a platter of oysters and whelks accompanied by two glasses of Sancerre Le Pierrier 2011 but Monsieur Le Gris complained the oysters had not been opened by a professional oyster opener.
“You see there is a little grit inside here so perhaps they haven’t trained their staff properly.”
“Oh Monsieur Le Gris you have such terribly high standards,” I sighed. “I’m lucky if I can open a can of peas properly let alone an oyster.”
“My darling, I will teach you how to open an oyster when we are in Brittany.’
FOR OUR MAIN course I ordered the steak tartare which came in a good portion and was accompanied by two types of Tabasco and delicious pommes frites. Top marks for that. Monsieur Le Gris ordered a bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2006, rather a cliché I thought but he assured me it was only because they had run out of the Gigondas. At least he upgraded instead of choosing something cheaper. What a gentleman. Monsieur Le Gris had ordered the cassoulet which tasted delicious but wasn’t particularly well presented.
“You see in France a cassoulet is a celebratory dish with plenty of beans and an abundance of meat. It must be visually appealing with variety and taste but this looks a little triste and lacks extravagance.”
“But does it taste good?”
“Mais oui, but a man needs to be visually drawn to his repas. When we are in France, I will cook you a true French cassoulet. It will last for days.” Little does Monsieur Le Gris know, I now have to lie on the floor to do up my skinny jeans so the thought of endless cassoulet simply fills me with dread. My Inner Goddess is getting fat.
Pictured above: Colbert, Sloane Square, from outside
As we drained our third glass of red, Monsieur le Gris explained that Jean Baptiste Colbert was the French minister of finance under Louis XIV who implemented stringent tax laws, regulated productivity and quality of goods and exposed decadent courtiers such as the extravagant Nicolas Fouquet who was promptly imprisoned for his grotesque displays of wealth. Thus it is appropriate that after Lord Cadogan complained of bad service, arrogant waiters and inflated prices, Oriel became Colbert. I wonder if this is an intended pun. If so, Jeremy King is even smarter than I thought.
Our meal was exceptionally good value and I’m certain Colbert will become a regular haunt as it achieves a perfect casual glamour and situated in the most perfect location with the added bonus of a late ordering menu. It will be a great success and another bastion of Chelsea dining.