While it's fun to visit a newly-opened restaurant when it's still a 'hot ticket' – I'm very excited about the table I managed to book at Dinner for early May – it's also well worth holding off for a while to let a restaurant bed in and get into its stride. Les Deux Salons was one of the big openings of 2010. I'm a big fan of Arbutus, so Anthony Demetre and Will Smith's new venture had really caught my eye. I also liked the fact that it had been inspired by classic French brasseries. Looking at their website, there wasn't much on the menu I didn't really fancy.
Last week, about four months after it opened, I met up with couple of old friends there for an early evening meal – one of whom had been before and had not been overly impressed. In particular he objected to the cheeky and greedy policy, common to many London restaurants, of serving many main courses without key elements such as potatoes, obliging you to order vegetable side dishes (often bumping the price of a main course up to £20 or so).
We opted for the three-course pre-theatre menu for £15.50 (two choices per course). One of my friends was running late, so we ordered on her behalf and sipped some refreshing unoaked Chilean Chardonnay, observing the gently humming, relaxed and stylish environment. Once she arrived we enjoyed our starters – my friends had minestrone soup and I had rabbit rillettes – all very tasty and well executed (and great with the wine – its acidity cutting nicely through the richness of the food).
For main course, my friends had Cornish mullet with leeks and boulangère potatoes (thumbs up from my previously critical friend). I chose ox tongue – meltingly tender with complex flavours, served with a tangy sauce gribiche. Very good. The Chardonnay was a good partner for the fish, while I had some Tempranillo from Castilla y Leon in Spain – Rioja-like mellow berry fruit and supple tannins working well with the rich meat. We rounded off the meal sharing some cheese (Pont l'Evèque was especially good) and a rather lovely apricot and pistachio nougat glace (made even lovelier by some Muscat Beaumes de Venise). We moved to the bar for coffee and to finish of the wine as, by now, we needed to vacate the table. We didn't feel rushed by the staff and we were perfectly comfortable sitting at the bar.
Including service, our bill came to £95 – good value for such decent quality in a very central spot (seconds from Trafalgar Square in a site that used to be a Pitcher and Piano). The 'theatre supper' is for orders taken between 5 and 6.30pm (Monday to Saturday) and the £15.50 menu is also available for lunch on the same days. Highly recommended, but I'm looking forward to exploring the rest of the menu on my next visit. The bavette of beef and the Barnsley chop cooked on the 'Josper' grill look particularly tempting and I'm intrigued by the snail and bacon pie starter. Soon, I hope.
Les Deux Salons
40–42 William IV Street
London WC2N 4DD
Tel 020 7420 2050