This latest restaurant from The Wolseley Hospitality Group, the uber-restaurateurs who count The Wolseley, The Delaunay and Brasserie Zédel among their ranks, takes its name from Monsieur Bellanger (seller of Delaunay-Belville automobiles) and, more importantly, makes a welcome addition to chain-heavy Upper Street. A trademark interior of polished wood, oil paintings, and gold finishes gives the spacious dining room a bright bistro feel, all designed by Shayne Brady of Brady Williams.
During our pre-opening lunch, we ate from a shortened version of a menu which celebrates the brasseurs (brewers) of Alsace. Expect a selection of French classics (similar to those which have made its siblings Brasserie Zédel and Colbert famous), alongside more Eastern European-leaning dishes: tangy salad râpées was brought up to date with the addition of celeriac and beetroot alongside the typical grated carrot, while beetroot-cured salmon with horseradish was perfect in its simplicity. Other options included a hearty pâté de campagne with fig jam, soupe à la bière (yes, that’s beer soup), or the 1980s favourite, a crayfish, prawn and avocado cocktail. For the main event, grilled chicken paillard was light and will no doubt prove popular among lunchtime diners, while cod à la Grenobloise (lemon, capers and parsley) was surprisingly rich, made more so by a side of creamy spinach. Sharing seems to be encouraged: coq au Reisling and baeckeoffe (beef, pork and lamb braised in Gewürztraminer wine) are offered for two or four people, while there’s a dedicated saucisse selection inviting diners to choose from varieties including Toulouse pork and wild boar with cranberry and venison.
For pudding, expect French classics such as tarte au pommes, Crêpe Suzette à la mode and vanilla crème brûlée. We’d been tipped off to order the tarte flambée, however, which arrives paper-thin on a wooden board, smeared with sticky apple and scattered chards of caramelised nut brittle. We’re told that when Bellanger is fully open, these will be available with savoury toppings such as goats’ cheese or bacon: basically the perfect accompaniment to a glass of wine at the bar. We have every confidence that classy Bellanger will gain a strong reputation in Islington.