James Lawrence check’s out the latest addition to the sometimes lacking City of London’s dining scene.
64 Bishops Gate, London EC2N 4AW (0207 588 1200) Meal for two, including wine and service approximately £100.
The City of London, or the Square Mile as its locally known, is famous for many things but a selection of good eateries it ain’t! Banks – check, Liverpool Street station – check, thousands of suits leaving offices at 7pm – check but good restaurants? – erm…Certainly at weekends this is the last part of London you want to go out searching for delicious food, as the suits have long gone and are off mowing their lawns in Surrey. In fact, it was arguably traditionally a no go zone for tourists, office workers and visitors looking for satisfying nourishment and atmosphere in the week. There are so many options among London’s thousands of restaurants, you have to ask why the hell would anyone stay here?
But restaurants like Chez Gerard are helping to change that. This recently refurbished venue on Bishops Gate first tempted city workers with its wares in 1975, before closing and then being purchased by Raymond Blanc’s company. It reopened in December last year and has since apparently built up a loyal clientele of office workers that don’t fancy much of a trek for dinner. I visited a few weeks ago on a cold Tuesday evening, the place was half empty but it was after 8:30pm before we sat down in the classically designed bistro setting complete with fancy tiling and leather booths. The downstairs bar area was more lively, but we fancied sampling the restaurant on our first visit.
The menu is a carnivores’ delight, presided over by executive chef Alain Bourbon who has been with Chez Gerard for over ten years. The emphasis is on, unsurprisingly, steaks – Boston trimmed rib, Ribeye and Fillet all sounded delicious and got me salivating at the very thought. Chez keeps the brasserie theme tightly in mind with grilled turbot, rack of ribs, etc. Lovers of high-end, refined michelin gastronomy look away now. Chez Gerard is all about quick, efficient service and tasty, unpretentious nosh. This it does with aplomb.
We ate some very tasty things: delicious and well-seasoned rich onion soup (my companion declined a starter) and two perfectly cooked, chargrilled Rib-Eye steaks. The bottomless fries is a welcome touch and I’m ashamed to say that we got through 3 portions each. The portions incidentally are not stingy, so don’t worry, you won’t need to order a plethora of side dishes to get you full. Which we were after our mains, but nonetheless we greedily devoured our tarte au citrons.
It doesn’t take long to get a handle on Chez Gerard, just look at its signature lunch time menu – available in the bar at lunch and 1st floor restaurant in the evening, for £19.95 you get a sirloin steak, bottomless chips, salad and house dressing, all within 10-15 minutes. This particular venue doesn’t pretend to be ultra trendy, elaborate or have the power to tempt you away from the West-End at weekends (it doesn’t even open). What it offers is just delicious, hearty fare within a timescale that suits the suits. Or if you fancy a more leisurely affair, just tell your waiter!
And the best thing? The wine list: full of real gems, like the 2001 Margaret River Cabernet we enjoyed with our steaks that have had their mark-ups capped to a maximum of £22.
So for once, it doesn’t pay to drink water in anticipation of opening your bottle of Bordeaux at home.
I stayed at the Travelodge in Waterloo – www.travelodge.co.uk