Lunch at Bagatelle review: subtle French flavours
In the heart of Mayfair, wedged between restaurants and bars each more lavish than the last, it’s hard for any establishment to stand out. And while Bagatelle, with its traditional-with-a-twist French menu may not be head and shoulders above the rest, it does serve up a delicious meal.
It’s part of an “international clubrestaurant chain”, with branches in St Barth, Dubai, Miami, Punta del Este and soon Courchevel – make of that list what you will – and is said to serve up quite the night out on an evening
We tried the lunch, however, and while the music playing seemed to be somewhat of a hangover from the night before, the food was excellent. The crab and celeriac salad was wholly original, and the gentle flavours worked perfectly together. The food was beautifully presented with sprinkles of edible flowers and orange zest to boot.
The basics at Bagatelle, like the bread, are second to none. When a total of four little baguettes were served as a starter with a creamy cheese spread, we laughed at the extravagance – and then they were gone. It was the kind of bread that feels light as a feather even after you’ve eaten it. The steak tartare, likewise, is exquisite, mixed with just the right portion of capers to bring out the beef’s flavour, and served with delicious chips. There’s also a tuna tartare, and likewise a salmon, with the “Raw Bar & Crudo” section of the menu spicing up an otherwise fairly traditional offering.
Other dishes, like the beautiful bavette steak, are served with lovely little pommes gaufrette (potato wafers), which lie somewhere between chips and crisps. For dessert, we were served a glorious and mysterious concoction of chocolate, caramel, vanilla ice cream and what tasted like a sort of peanut butter foam. It’s presented as a sort of sculpture, covered by a chocolate lid with holes in it so you can peek at your dish before smashing into it.
The extensive cocktail menu serves up some truly complex and subtle concoctions, like the Bistrot Swizzle (that’s Pampero Blanco rum as well as Zacapa 23 year, apple and lime juice, white grape, mint, ginger and elderflower) and Le Parisien, with vodka, dill, lemon balm and coriander seed infused whiskey, St Germain, lemon juice and lavender honey water.
The walls are adorned with striking, modern and often quite raunchy art, and there is a massive walk-in birdcage structure built around the stairs to the toilets. In general, there’s something a bit incongruous about bits and bobs inside the restaurant during the day; it doesn’t always feel quite like it makes sense.
Stylistically, it’s fair to say that Bagatelle will not be for everyone. But you can head there knowing there will certainly be no complaints about the food.
Bagatelle, 34 Dover St, Mayfair; bagatellelondon.com