REVIEW: CHEZ GERARD BRASSERIE, BISHOPSGATE
When I tell my friends I am dining at Chez Gerard, I get the slight head tilt and pursed lips to show universal approval, despite them knowing nothing of this Bishopsgate brasserie. The name Chez Gerard just exudes excellence, and after nearly 40 years since the first restaurant opened in London, they must be doing something right. Following a full refurb and so much history behind the brand, it’s only right that BSF visit the venue that lies in the shadow of the Heron Tower.
Once through the huge double doors, you are greeted by a modern bar on the ground floor, and we are then shown to the spiral staircase leading up to the intimate restaurant which resides on the first floor. An estate agent would call the restaurant area ‘cosy with character’ and the decorators certainly had their work cut out for them trying to make the most of the space, but by in large, they have succeeded. I’m in love with the continental style train carriage theme complete with table lamps, overhead bag storage and a corner bar main feature.
We are handed the concise menu and our waiter explains that the starters are all about seafood, to which my companion’s eyes light up at the lobster, crab, prawn and avocado cocktail- while I settled on the French Onion soup. The soup is a nod to Chez Gerard’s roots, and doesn’t disappoint with full bodied flavour and onions caramelised to perfection. The seafood cocktail was equally satisfying, and was light enough to just whet the appetite for the all important main.
Steak is the main attraction at Chez Gerard, and all orders come with complimentary bottomless fries. There has been a trend in London for chefs to source their steaks from across the Atlantic, so it’s a pleasant change that Chez Gerard have decided to remain British with all beef coming from the illustrious Casterbridge in Dorset and aged for 28 days. As a fan of American T-bone, I opt for the porterhouse and my companion orders the fillet. As well as the bottomless fries, we also go for the grilled fried mushrooms, and Caesar salad.
The salad arrives first on a cart and as the waiter begins to mix the bowl in front of us, we are given the option to include ingredients such as peppers, and chilli flakes to the more unorthodox heron and homemade dressing with anchovy extracts. Our steaks soon arrive and the huge porterhouse is almost spilling over the edge of the platter. Coming from a grain fed cow, I wasn’t expecting the most full flavoured steak, but I was still left disappointed by how much it was lacking and was quite firm for medium cooked beef. My companion made similar remarks of the fillet, and the salad provided the only highlight with the heron and anchovies creating the most distinctive Caesar I’ve tried. Although the meal was very filling, we weren’t entirely satisfied and just felt like it was missing ‘something’ (Brownie points for not using ‘Je ne sais quoi’ here).
For dessert I opted for Lemon Tart with lemon crème fraiche, and my companion had the mango, lemon and raspberry sorbet- with both offering a tidy end to an indifferent evening. If I was in the area again, I probably would come back to Chez Gerard for a business lunch, but I certainly wouldn’t go out of my way. The English breakfast menu, ‘Steak Express’ £19.95 lunchtime menu, and capped wine prices will help bring in the casual diner, but I don’t think Chez Gerard offers enough distinctiveness to keep customers returning, especially in an area with so many grill restaurants to choose from.
For bookings, visit www.chezgerard.co.uk