With its prime location on the Aldwych and its links with the excellent Wolseley, The Delaunay is quite a destination, and the perfect subject for a restaurant review. There’s been a lot in the media recently about restaurants losing out on their usual summer boom season due to the Olympics, but bustling The Delaunay seemed to be having no such trouble, with not an empty table in sight.
I visited with four work colleagues one Wednesday to mark the end of a project. As we waited to be shown to our table by a smartly dressed young waiter, we had a moment to take in the opulent surroundings. The Delaunay’s spacious dining room is all dark wood panelling with formal, straight backed chairs around the central tables and deep leather banquettes at the corner tables. A vintage French clock hangs above the fireplace and the walls are adorned with imposing oil paintings. The Delaunay doesn’t do background music, and the only sounds are the clink of knives and forks and the murmur of dinner table conversation, but The Delaunay nonetheless manages to maintain a pleasantly relaxed atmosphere.
Owners Chris Corbin and Jeremy King describe The Delaunay as a “café-restaurant in the grand European tradition”, and the impressively broad menu journeys through the bistro fare of France before taking the diner on a tour of German brauhaus cuisine and throwing in a handful of British classics for good measure. I just had to start with the Alsace specialty, Tarte Flambée. The base was wafer thin, with a wonderfully crisp crust. The topping of smoked bacon and sautéed shallots was a real treat, the saltiness of the bacon offset perfectly by the tangy sweetness of the shredded shallots whose fondant texture was simply delightful. My only quibble with this dish was its size – a good 12 inches across, it was a simply massive starter, and I had to stop myself part way through to ensure I had room for the rest of my meal. Other starters around the table ran the gamut from an archetypal English prawn cocktail to a Mediterranean influenced baked Romano pepper stuffed with aubergine and a hearty Hungarian spiced sausage broth, all of which were very well received by my fellow diners.
For main course, two of my fellow diners enjoyed prettily presented spatchcock poussin, while the other two couldn’t resist The Delaunay’s (slightly posh) version of fish & chips, “goujons of plaice with French fries”. Both dishes clearly went down well, as did my own choice – the fish of the day – a chargrilled fillet of salmon on a bed of baby spinach leaves with roasted red peppers and red onions. I had been slightly nervous about this dish, as even the most competent restaurants often over-cook their salmon. But I needn’t have worried – this fish was perfectly seared, flakily soft and succulent with just a hint of blackened flavour from the chargrill. The accompanying spinach leaves had a delicate bitterness while the roasted red peppers added sweetness and the piquancy of the finely sliced red onions brought everything together and a slight excess of olive oil in the dressing was easily forgiven. Around the table, we shared side dishes of wilted spinach, mixed summer vegetables and mixed leaf salad. These were unexceptional, and a touch on the small side, but pleasant enough accompaniments nevertheless.
When it came to dessert, I just had to succumb to temptation and sample one of The Delaunay’s beautiful cakes, which stand in pride of place on a table by the entrance to the dining room. While my fellow diners held back and satisfied themselves with tea and coffee, I revelled in the luscious sweetness of a . This ring shaped cake was deliciously light, with a touch of cinnamon and a brilliant but subtle kick of kirschwasser. In the centre of the ring was a generous dollop of peach compote which provided a great contrast in both taste and texture.
As this was a working lunch, we stuck to the soft drinks, but The Delaunay’s wine list, although fairly short and confined to Europe, wins points with me for offering all but a few top end tipples by the glass or carafe as well as the bottle. Service was smooth and professional, if a little slow towards the end of the meal. Price wise, The Delaunay isn’t cheap, coming in at around £36 per head for three courses excluding wine and service, but in terms of taste and quality, you certainly get what you pay for. Overall, The Delaunay earns itself an impressive four Forks Up.The Delaunay 55 Aldwych London WC2B 4BB Tel: 0207 499 8558