Archive for June, 2013

Restaurant Review: Savoy, Kaspar’s Restaurant (May 2013)

Posted on: June 3rd, 2013 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood


The current trend towards more casual, informal dining has now embraced one of the bastions of grand hotel formality – The Savoy River Restaurant. Renamed Kaspar’s Seafood Bar and Grill after the hotel’s celebrated resident cat, it now offers all day dining from a contemporary menu featuring the delights of land and sea.

The décor, furniture and fittings of the dining room, however, are anything but casual in style and appearance. In keeping with the Savoy’s reputation for opulence and luxury, black marble floor and walls, large mirrors and brass railings give a sleek and glossy finish. The silver leaf ceiling accentuates the art deco theme. Undressed tables – perhaps the most obvious salute to casual dining – are large and well-spaced, whilst seating of leather banquettes and chairs in ocean blue give a modern, sophisticated feel.

At the centre of the room is the magnificent circular oyster bar distinguished by its “James Bond” style extending tables and the fish like Murano glass pendants glittering from the ceiling. The bread and cheese area, with its attractive displays from the in-house bakery, is another pleasing feature of the remodelled room.

JamespareHead Chef James Pare indulges his passion for seafood by offering a wide selection of fish and shellfish. A choice of five smoked fish includes the unusual hot smoked sable fish with paprika, whilst beetroot halibut and star anise salmon feature amongst the cured varieties. Shellfish is offered in abundance, whether in poached lobster with garlic mayonnaise as a starter, prawns in an Indonesian salad, or in the signature Kaspar’s lobster club sandwich. Most glorious of all are the platters of fruits de mer featuring poached prawns, seasonal oysters, seared scallops and crab, the Royal version including lobster. Fresh fish feature in a starter of yellow fine tuna tartare and mains ranging monkfish kebabs to Thai green seafood curry.

Burgers, steaks, salads and pasta dishes are amongst the non-piscine choices which also include those brasserie classics, snails with herb butter and steak tartare. Clearly this is a menu to satisfy all tastes and preferences, from the grandest to more humble offerings. The brigade of 21 chefs, cooking for up to 300 covers a day, is clearly well prepared for the range of dishes.

Chef James Pare stresses the importance of good sourcing as fundamental to the success of the menu. Seafood deliveries occur six times a week: scallops and lobsters from Scotland; crabs and sole from Cornwall.  The Cheese Cellar supplies mainly British artisan cheeses with some French classics. His primary aim is customer satisfaction through consistency in the quality of cooking. Whilst 30% of diners are staying at the hotel, there is considerable walk-in trade which he wants to maintain with his wide ranging menu. The smoked sand shrimp and eel cocktail, snails, fish bar items and the lobster sour dough club sandwich have proved early best sellers.

Fine Dining Guide visited Kaspar’s for dinner in mid May.

The sour dough and baguettes offered were accomplished in their crisp crusts and firm crumb.

Snails, served in a cast iron dish rather than in their individual shells, were plump, soft and well flavoured. They would have been even better if more parsley was added to the garlic butter to give that aromatic persillade touch.


Seared scallops were accurately timed to produce a caramelised crust and delicate, translucent flesh. The accompanying tomato verbena jam was beautifully balanced in its sweet and acidic qualities which complemented the seafood perfectly.


Royal fruits de mer, sheer heaven for seafood lovers, was served on a magnificent platter of ice, in classic brasserie style. The poached lobster, so often overcooked to resemble cotton wool in even the best restaurants, retained its soft, sweet succulence. The claw meat, extracted from its shell in one piece, partnered a seared scallop and white crab meat, all exemplary in taste and texture. Crevettes were plump and not too salty, as can often be the case. A minor disappointment were the oysters which were served minus their natural juices, making them easier to eat but less enjoyable, despite the shallot vinegar and Tabasco condiments. It was pleasing, however, to see a choice of mayonnaise and Marie Rose sauce, both well made, and lemon halves properly wrapped in muslin.


In the old River Restaurant, a whole grilled Dover sole would have been filleted at the table in typical Gueridon fashion. Here, it was branded and taken apart in the kitchen, making it diner friendly but taking way some of the joy of restaurant theatre. That said, this king of fish was perfectly cooked, its firm texture and distinct flavour being enhanced by a classic garnish of beurre noisette spiked with capers.


A platter of three artisan cheeses, all in perfect condition, was enjoyed with quince jelly and grapes.

A choice of nine desserts includes British and French classics such as sticky toffee pudding and apple tarte tatin. A reinvention of Peach Melba, in the form of an ice cream sandwich, might fit the casual dining theme but did not do justice to this iconic dessert.  Much better was the Valrhona manjari chocolate sphere – destroyed when a warm passion fruit sauce is poured over it.


Service is young, solicitous and well managed. The wine list comprises more Old World than New, with some good value bottles and others in line with the Savoy tradition! The enthusiastic sommelier Aristotle suggested an exquisite white burgundy  – Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 2007 Bertrand Ambroise – which partnered the seafood wonderfully.

Overall, The Savoy deserves to succeed in its new, ground breaking, venture. Trying to satisfy a wide variety of tastes in an all-day offering has its potential disadvantages, but this is what the market increasingly wants and the hotel is moving with the times. We shall watch its progress with interest.

Restaurant Review: Brasserie Chavot (May 2013)

Posted on: June 2nd, 2013 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood


The return of Eric Chavot to the London dining scene was an eagerly anticipated event. This veteran of the kitchens of Pierre Koffman, Raymond Blanc, Nico Ladenis and Marco Pierre White  established  his own restaurant, Interlude de Chavot in 1995, gaining a Michelin star within a year. His subsequent career at the Capital Hotel, culminated in the award of two Michelin stars which he held for nine years. Private service in Florida for the Weston family who own Selfridges, and an intense two months at Pierre Koffmann’s pop up restaurant on the roof of the same store, were a prelude to the opening of his eponymous brasserie in March 2013

Chavot_InteriorNot that “brasserie” does full justice to the setting and décor of his new operation. The Mayfair location, in what used to be the Gallery restaurant of the Westbury Hotel, exudes glamour and sophistication. The exquisite Italian mosaic floor, 18th century gold chandeliers and classical columns,  juxtaposed with art deco styling, typify a grand, fine dining venue. The partitions separating the long line of tables and tall dark red banquettes and tchairs  along one side of the narrow room have a pleasing effect. Opposite, the mirrored walls are broken by the addition of elegant shelving. The small lounge bar  near the entrance is balanced by the long food bar at the far end, where cold starters and shellfish are prepared within view of appreciative diners.

Nor can the cooking be called typical brasserie fare. True, Eric Chavot has returned to a more homely, rustic style, reminiscent of the gutsy, bold flavoured cuisine of his native South West France, a sharp contrast to the haute cuisine of most of his former restaurants. But his style is far from typical, the dishes bearing his personal imprint notably in the timing, composition, saucing, garnishing, and presentation. His passion is shown in the provenance of  impeccable quality ingredients and in the skilful execution of seemingly simple dishes that nevertheless require the chef to be at the top of his craft.

The menu of classic and contemporary dishes allows a fair degree of choice without being so extensive as to undermine consistency. 11 starters include favourites such as charcuterie and steak tartare and more modern dishes such as scallop ceviche and soft shell crab. Similarly, main courses range from choucroute garnie to tiger prawn with chickpea and chorizo. The choice of desserts such as profiteroles or crème brulee is more conservative but no less inviting.

Aperitifs include the popular Pineau des Charentes, Lillet and Ricard whilst the largely French wine list gives many options by the glass, pichet or carafe.

Fine Dining Guide visited Brasserie Chavot on a weekday evening in April.

A selection of hot and cold starters demonstrated the range of Eric Chavot’s skills.

Steak tartare,topped with a soft boiled quail’s egg for extra richness, had a much looser, creamier texture than those found elsewhere and was all the better for it. The carefully seasoned beef was bound by a well balanced mustard dressing spiked with capers amd cornichons which enhanced the soft, succulent qualities of  the meat.


Chicken liver parfait was rich, intensely flavoured and surprisingly light. A slice of pork terrine was exemplary in its firm texture and depth of flavour.

Deep fried soft shell crabs were encased in a light tempura batter that was crisp and delicate without being greasy.Their relative blandness needed the pungency of the  whipped  saffron aioli  which accompanied the dish.


A special starter featured  seared scallops, accurately timed to produce a caramelised crust and sweet, translucent flesh. A topping of tiny crutons and bacon cubes added textural complexity, whilst grilled asparagus gave a deeply savoury quality to balance the sweetness of the seafood. A saffron dressing worked well in bringing these diverse elements together.


Main courses included a dish that no brasserie should be without: daube de beouf.  Long slow cooking had produced meltingly tender meat in a heavily reduced, deeply flavoured sauce that was glossy and sticky. Again, as with so many of his other dishes, Eric added his personal stamp , “garniture grande mere” – in this case, a bourgignon style addition of lardons, button mushrooms and baby onions –  along with carrots and a delectably smooth potato puree.


A sensational lamb dish partnered a glazed char grilled mini rack with a brick pastry cigarette filled with braised shoulder, showcasing the differing textural and flavour qualities of each cut. The accompanying couscous, studded with golden raisins, peppers, pine nuts, coriander and mint, complemented the lamb perfectly, whilst the whole dish was lifted by an intense olive jus.


Desserts were equally accomplished.

Baba au rhum showed the correct degree of spongy cake like texture and had been well, but not over, soaked in a sugar syrup. Crème fraiche Chantilly and a carpaccio of pineapple proved suitable accompaniments.

Cafe Liegeoise was a grown up interpretation of the classic.  Mocha ice cream, brownie and creme Chantilly  were topped with a crisp disc rich, dark chocolate.

Perhaps best of all was the glazed  passion fruit cheesecake with its curd and sorbet garnishes, each of which captured the sweet and sour flavour of this delectable fruit with its lasting astringent after taste.


Good Nespresso coffee completed a highly satisfying meal This was enhanced by the friendly, knowledgeable service and the exciting buzz of relaxed enjoyment as the restaurant filled up.

Clearly, Brasserie Chavot, with its stylish accommodation, relaxed ambience, accomplished cooking by a distinguished chef is already making a strong  impact. In a year that has seen many West End openings , it is more than capable of holding its own in what is already a highly competitive field. We will watch its progress with interest.