Thursday, 17 February 2011

New in town: Chabrot Bistrot dAmis/QV Bar

With the new year comes new openings – not that London ever needs an excuse to roll a new restaurant/bar/club out. The pace of change in the capital's culinary scene at the moment is exhilarating. So many bars, so little time... I did manage to find the time recently to visit two newbies: Chabrot Bistrot d'Amis and the QV Bar at Quo Vadis in Soho. The former is the brainchild of Yann Chevris, former general manager of L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon.

Chevris has teamed up with Michelin-starred chef Thierry Laborde, formerly of L’Oranger, Le Gavroche and Le Louis XV with Alain Ducasse, and sommelier Philippe Messy – the youngest ever sommelier at a three Michelin-starred restaurant when he worked with Marco Pierre White at the Hyde Park Hotel.

Messy co-founded Sarment – a private sommelier service offered to seventy-five members globally each year, with Gearoid Devany in 2009. The company takes sommeliers from the world’s top restaurants and makes them available to their members. Each member has a dedicated personal sommelier to advice them on all aspects of wine buying, tasting, storage and investment. The joys of owning a platinum Amex...

Back to Chabrot: the 65-cover restaurant is named after a Dordogne ritual popularised during the food shortages of the second world war whereby red wine was poured into a soup bowl after the meal to ensure you got all the nutrients from the soup. The walls are lined with mawkish monochrome scenes of rural France and peasants breaking bread. It has a cosy feel, as if you've been before. And you probably have – Chabrot bares a striking resemblance to an upmarket Café Rouge, from the red walls to the wooden chairs – it's all reassuringly familiar.

The Southern French menu features bone marrow, duck liver pâté with Comté cheese popovers, homemade pasta with Périgord truffles, roasted foie gras with raisins, and Laborde’s signature dish: chicken stuffed with foie gras. On the launch night platters of warm, crunchy calamari kept the crowd pleased, along with charcuterie and cornichons, and mini macaroons. Befitting of a bistro, the wine list is predominantly French, starting at £19.50 a bottle, and includes top names such as Taittinger, Domaine Dujac and Château Montrose. Topping the list is Château Cheval Blanc 1998, at an eye-watering £900 a bottle.

Another new kid on the block is the QV Bar at popular Soho haunt Quo Vadis. Owners Sam and Eddie Hart decided the 'dead space' in the restaurant would be better suited as a bar, so converted the restaurant's entrance area into a laid-back bar serving up seriously good cocktails. On my visit, mixologist Paul Mant fixed me up a a pre-Prohibition era, cotton candy pink, Clover Club – named after a Philadelphia gentleman's club – made with gin, lemon juice and raspberry syrup.

A number of snacks reside on the bar menu, from cod fritters and QV burgers, through deliciously decadent pork scratchings pimped with oodles of apple sauce, to the culinary wonder that is their scotch eggs. Served sliced in half, bright orange gooey yolks to the sky, the breadcrumbs were golden, the meat most, and, for the final flourish, it was finished off with Frazzle-shaped slithers of crispy bacon. I had to wolf mine down, as I was running late for a reading of Allen Ginsberg's Howl at the Southbank Centre in honour of the forthcoming film starring actor/writer/model/Columbia student James Franco as the Beat poet. Rushing to make the reading, I ended up leaving my camera behind at the bar. It was worth it.

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