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A Lyonnaise in London – Chez Antoinette Restaurant.
I love restaurants that have family history intertwined with the brand. Originally from France’s gastro-capital Lyon, designer Aurelia Noel-Delclos had a dream that she wanted to open a restaurant in conjunction with her hotelier husband Jean-Baptiste, a place that not only honoured her grandmother Antoinette’s cooking but also channelled the chic Parisian cafés and Lyon’s famous guinguettes bars that she loved. So that’s what she did, opening the original Covent Garden Chez Antoinette in 2014, with a mission to reinterpret ‘classic dishes from tarts to tartines’ but with ‘a modern sensibility’. The success of their first restaurant sowed the seeds for the recently opened Chez Antoinette Victoria, bringing an authentic slice of France to the steel and glass offices, shops and restaurants that now line the streets of the area. The airy interior has a ground floor and a more intimate mezzanine level that features red banquettes and wooden chairs; with an attractively tiled floor, dazzling globe lights and vintage photos and paintings on the walls all adding to the atmosphere. After tramping through the cold, wet streets we needed a drink! The wine list features bottles from small growers and it was very apparent that the restaurant’s markup was very reasonable. We settled on a bottle of Clos de l’Église Macon Charnay 2017, a creamy white Burgundy with hazelnut and vanilla notes. In keeping with Chez Antoinette‘s heritage, the menu is reassuringly old-fashioned. A classic French onion soup was piping hot, richly flavoured and full of sweet onions and cheesy croutons and a salad of smoked haddock with sliced potatoes, red onions and chives had a decent portion of the tasty, flaky fish dressed in a good olive oil – a simple dish, perfectly composed and full of flavour.
The main courses were equally robust. A satisfying dish of fish quenelles came with spinach and doused in the subtle crayfish tang of a sauce Nantua (a crayfish flavoured Béchamel sauce). This is not a dish you see very often outside France these days so it was a real delight to find it at Chez Antoinette. A Bavette steak was unusually fatty but had plenty of flavour and came with crisp roast potatoes, broccoli and a creamily rich black pepper sauce. Sides of a generous and well-dressed house salad and a perfect-for-winter though not particularly cheesy Gratin Dauphinois added value.
I find myself eating fewer desserts these days than before but a Paris–Brest on a menu is irresistible. With a light choux pastry and a delicious praline flavoured cream, it made me very happy. Without the novelty of a Paris-Brest, I might have raved about the creme brûlée which was a triumph of vanilla eggy fluffiness and burnt sugar crunch.
Chez Antoinette is an all-day type of place so you can drop in for breakfast and it will keep you going through to supper. Short of having your own French grandmother at your beck and call cooking traditional dishes for you on-demand, Chez Antoinette is the next best thing!
22 Palmer Street (The Caxton),
London SW1H 0PH
Monday – Friday: 7:30am — 10:00pm
Saturday & Sunday: 10:00am — 4:00pm
Tel: 020 3990 5377