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|Address:||55 Aldwych, London WC2B 4BB|
|Tel:||020 7499 8558|
|Price: £51.00||Wine: £19.00||Champagne: £55.00|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Sun 11.30am-12M (Sun -11pm)|
3 of 4 people found this review helpful.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; this is a tale of two meals. The Delaunay announces itself as an all day dining place, so in the interests of fairness, I visited it at lunchtime and then for a late, post-theatre supper (for it would be far too gauche to call what one has here dinner). The experiences were markedly different.
This place smells new – that leather smell that you get from a new Roller amplified but what must have been the remains of most of the extras on Rawhide, overpowering as you first walk in. This will go over time, but what will not is the imposing nature of the room.
Much like their other joint, the Wolsely, Delaunay is grand, on the scale of a Lyonnais brasserie (or at least a New York imitation of one) or, given the pile of cakes, a Viennese grand cafe. Dark panelled wood lines the walls; that fresh, green leather in the banquettes and booths. The ceiling is high and floor polished marble. It reeks as much of money as it does of leather, although the patina of age will fade the leather, it will only enhance the smell of money.
Oddly, however, the clientele doesn’t seem so monied. It may be close to the Courts of Justice, but it is equally close to Drury Lane, so there was an odd mixture about the crowd. What is noticeable is that at lunchtime the old grandees of the City seem to be more prominent, wining out over the tourists wandering up Drury Lane, whilst in the evening, it is a different story; a younger, more lively crowd.
The first time I was in, Messrs King and Corbin were in, glad-handing the great and the good (I didn’t recognise any of them, but I am sure that there were those who were both). I was studiously ignored, but at least wasn’t sent to the Siberian wastelands of The Table By The Loo. The evening trip was a different story: we were fortunately not sat behind the glass, screened off area (which I first took for a private room, but turns out to be the restaurant equivalent of the naughty step), but instead had the dreaded Table By The Serving Station, with the person on the outside (me) getting a great view of the till and the dumb waiters.
This isn’t an insult: the kitchen, unlike so many places in town, is not open to view, but is on another floor, the food coming to the counter via a vast array of lifts. I recently came across a site on the Interweb called Table Guru that rates how hot which tables at a restaurant are, telling you if you are in the seated equivalent of Boujis or Club 26. I am not sure if this is so that you can feel hard done by when you get there and find that you are at TTBTL, as if you couldn’t already spot it, or whether it is so that you can request your specific seat when you book. Although as most bookings are done online these days, I really can’t quite see the point. Bit like most of the Interweb in fact.
To be fair, the tables are a generous size, and well spread out, resisting the temptation to cram five tables into a single banquette (a la Bar Boulad), settling for a far roomier three, meaning that, as the people at the table next to us and we did at the end of the meal, it was easy for both dinners to sit one side, looking out over the gathered masses. That there is good space between the tables, however, in no way excuses the waiter from leaning between them to get the credit card machine by the till. No. Go round. Just because you've stuck us in shit table, don't rub it in. In fact, the waiting staff do need a bit more training, which is an odd thought for a restaurant run by the highly polished King Corbin; they seemed nervous, always circling, always wanting to do something, ending up with them whipping my wine glass away, when the last smidge of wine was still staining the glass. That is not good.
Where to start on the food? How about the menu? Big. Encompassing all day eating, but why entrees? And french fries? Surely these are mains and chips? We’re not actually in America, although the menu is clearly intended to allow any stray septics that come in off the street to feel at home. Poor dears.
The food is perfectly adequate comfort fare, but I am fed up with adequate: there was way too much vinaigrette in the avocado and radish salad, coupled with way too little avocado, the dish being dominated by the lettuce that takes third billing on the menu. The tarte flambé was a lovely, thin crust pizza with smoked bacon and shallots, but as a starter could easily have done me for a main. Moule frites was a fair example, but no better than Belgo, and you’re not even told whether it is marinières or creamy (it is creamy, in case you wish to try it). Top marks to the veal escalope though: beautifully cooked, just the right golden stage outside, yet perfectly cooked interior.
But the thing that REALLY gets my goat here is the damn cover charge: £2 a head? Why? To cover for the tap water (which was very helpfully offered rather than the more usual inquisition as to whether sir would prefer still or sparkling) and the bread? For dinner, this amounts to a small fraction of the overall cost, but at lunch, with just one course, when you add in the 12.5% “suggested” gratuity, you are getting to 20%. This is US level. Maybe this too is done to make the septics feel at home.
It is the sort of place I might come back to with certain clients for lunch. For dinner? Well maybe, but there are other places I'd try first. Lots of other places.