"It's not much but it's ours"

Friday, September 07, 2007


That must be her again
She's leaning on my bell

Unless you’ve visited the Hotel behind the tube station (I did once for a conference) you probably have only transited through the area of London known as Lancaster Gate Lying half-way between Queensway and the Edgware Road it’s an odd area with nothing really to detain one. Until now. Just off the little island where the tube is situated there’s a quiet street where a new French Restaurant Angelus has recently opened, overseen by the avuncular figure of Thierry Thomasin who worked at Aubergine and Le Gavroche. There’s a lounge bar (of which more later), a terrace which is a bit optimistic given this summer’s weather and a bijou, Art Deco themed restaurant which has the smells of new leather.

The staff were a bit hesitant at first (it was their second day) and didn’t seem to know much about the menu – there were lots of little huddles with occasional glances towards my table. I feared the worse but as it turned out I had a terrific meal.

A dish of Cornish Crab in aspic which sounded intriguing came as a generous layer of fantastically fresh native crab (why couldn’t they use this as Restaurant One-O-One I wonder) atop some pureed avocado and topped off with aspic and a fennel cream. It was fresh, delicious and not served too cold.

The signature dish is the crème brulee of foie gras. After my first spoonful I though it was going to be too oily but it turned into a beautifully, creamy , custardy treat. The little crust provided a suitable sweet foil as did the Soave dessert wine recommended by the very helpful sommelier. A little word about the wine: there weren’t actually that many wines by the glass- a couple of whites, a red and a rose but they were all decent quality, served in generous pours and were very reasonably priced. I’ve since read that there mark-ups are around the 100% mark which for London must be some sort of record for a restaurant.

My Anjou pigeon with bacon and salsify wasn’t as good as the bird I had recently at The Pot Kiln but was still pretty good. Accurately cooked to an even pinkness and unusually served with its cuisses it didn’t really need the little pot of roast new potatoes (for the rosbifs maybe) but the salsify was a good partner.

The good technique of the kitchen was evident again in a dessert of Guanara chocolate tart with nougat ice cream. Instead of a fridge-fresh , oversweet chocolate overload I got light crisp pastry case with a well judged, clean tasting filling. Served tiede. The sommelier must have taken a shine to me because I got two wines with my pud: a glass of Montepulciano to go with the chocolate and a dessert Soave for the ice cream. After that lot my smile would have given the Cheshire Cat’s a run for its money in a widest grin competition.

Sitting back in the best seat in the house I fancied some digestif action, unfortunately they hadn’t got their liqueur list together so M. Thomasin enticed me into the lounge with the promise of something from his collection. I was led into a dark and rather grim antechamber. A definite advantage if your date is someone who has had more than a glancing blow with the ugly stick but not so good if you’re on your tod and like to people watch. My humour was improved, however, when the good Mr T. comped me an extra large Armangnac.

Angelus probably wouldn’t be anything special in France but in London it stands out as one of the better French restaurants due in no small part to the owners obvious enthusiasm and their aim to give punters a good time. It’s also a good reason to visit Lancaster Gate if you didn’t have one before.

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