This week’s restaurant review is something of a first for Forks-Up, and we’re very excited to share it with you. Having registered with the press office of Rex Restaurant Associates to source interior pictures for our review of The Delaunay, we were delighted to receive advance notice of the opening of their newest venture, Colbert, and to visit for dinner during the “soft opening” period. This is the first couple of weeks after a restaurant opens its doors – anyone can visit, but it isn’t yet being widely advertised; food is offered at a reduced price, and diners are accordingly expected to be forgiving if staff are still working to iron out initial wrinkles in the service and set-up.
Situated right on chic Sloane Square, Colbert brings the style of the grand boulevard cafes of Paris to one of the most upmarket corners of London and looks set to be a sure fire hit. Stepping through the doors is like stepping back in time, the dark wood tables, marble floors, red leather banquettes and mellow lighting are evocative of mid-20th Century Paris, and the numerous immaculately turned out waiters and waitresses flit from table to table, less brusque but just as efficient as their Gallic counterparts, making sure the diners are properly taken care of.
The menu is classically Parisian, ranging from simple snacks like croque monsieur, to extravagant platters of oysters and caviar, to brasserie staples like moules marinière and steak diane. To begin, my dining partner chose the Bayonne ham with celeriac remoulade. Bayonne is the French equivalent of Parma ham, deliciously savoury, it contrasted beautifully with the sharp tang of the celeriac. My own starter of chicken liver parfait was sumptuously smooth, with a rich, full flavour. It was served with a lightly toasted brioche and a delicate quince jelly whose sweetness was perfectly pitched to take away the slightly bitter liver-y finish on the parfait. While I enjoyed the dish immensely, I have to admit that I couldn’t quite finish it – the slab of parfait was overwhelmingly large, and even if I had been determined to try, I wouldn’t have had quite enough brioche to spread it on.
Moving on to main course, my dining partner chose the Escalope de Veau Viennoise, a brilliantly thin veal schnitzel, in a perfect crisp breadcrumb, while I enjoyed the Saumon Grillé aux Champignons Sauvages. This was a beautifully seared, succulent and thick fillet of salmon, prettily presented on a bed of sautéed wild mushrooms and wilted spinach and dressed with a red wine sauce. The intense nuttiness of the mushrooms brought to mind a forest in autumn, though they did tend a touch too far towards the rustic as they seemed to still be carrying some of that forest floor with them, with a gritty crunch taking me by surprise on several mouthfuls. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by the red wine sauce, as it isn’t exactly a common pairing with salmon and I had worried that it would drown out the delicate flavours of the fish. In fact it was wonderfully light and even slightly sweet, and really brought the separate elements of the dish together. We shared a side dish of fantastically creamy mashed potatoes, and another of honey roasted root vegetables which, to my delight, included an unusual but delectable roast beetroot as well as the usual parsnips and carrots.
Although we were quite full after our generous mains, we just couldn’t resist dessert. My dining partner’s crème caramel was a perfect example of the genre, quivering slightly under the pressure of the spoon but with a velvety texture in the mouth and a subtle burnt sugar bitterness on the finish. My own dessert, the Tarte du Jour, was equally impressive. An exemplary lemon tart with a thin, crisp pastry, the topping had a decadently sticky lemon curd consistency with an intense flavour, at once tangy and sweet and all in all utterly satisfying.
Colbert’s wine list is exclusively French, but offers an impressive range of reds and whites by the glass and the bottle. Looking back at the list now, I see that there are also 500ml carafes available, but mention of this is tucked away and easy to miss. My dining partner and I went for a bottle of the Côtes du Rhône 2010 Domaine Roger Sabon (£27), which was an impressively fruity medium bodied wine with soft tannins, that complemented our food and proved extremely easy to drink.
With its well-executed, up-market brasserie fare and vibrant, bustling atmosphere, Colbert is a great addition to London’s dining scene. Without the soft opening discount, our three courses with wine and service would have come in at £50 per head, and there’s potential for the bill to hit at least £80 per head if you opt for some of the more expensive mains and a higher end bottle of wine. That said, it doesn’t feel like bad value and Colbert’s debut scores an impressive four Forks-Up.Colbert 50-52 Sloane Square Chelsea SW1W 8AX