Brasserie Z​édel: London’s Stylish Interpretation of Frenchness

Anyone who thinks Heathrow is a mess should fly to Paris. Pandemonium rules at both Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports. There are queues as far as the eye can see for luggage, taxis, buses and information. Ask someone if they can help you with directions and you’re met by a frosty ‘non’. The dingy, dog-eared cafeteria space in departures at Charles de Gaulle’s terminal 2A, distinguished only by its poorly lit cratered-concrete modernist ceiling, also serves as a corridor for those in transit – probably because each terminal is simply one great curving corridor. As I sat and munched my way through a pre-packed carton of salad earlier this week, a family including several children and au pair filed dejectedly past – American father leading the way, declaring, “this place is a friggin’ maze.” I silently concurred.

Of course, they must still be feeling down after losing out on the Olympic bid, but the French are trying to make amends: At Charles de Gaulle they have begun replacing some of the floors with a covering that looks suspiciously like polished grey marble salvaged from a bankrupt Dubai shopping mall. There are dozens of new shops, mainly boarded up, with signs promising they will be opening soon. The cash-hungry luxury Prada, Dior and Gucci chain store triumvirate is already up and running. But their stores are empty too, with the exception of the odd Far Eastern visitor. And there are two brand spanking new seafood counters a la Caviar House serving smoked salmon and overpriced chardonnay to the occasional customer – who sits perched upon an uncomfortably tall designer stool in splendidly spotlit isolation. Only one of these eateries was open at the time of my visit.

Admittedly, there are some things the French do seem to get right – though perhaps a fluke of climate (or absence of air conditioning) is responsible for snack triangles of camembert (see above) always being so divinely runny?

Truth be told, we Brits now do French far better than the French do. Take Brasserie Zedel in Sherwood Street. What is there not to like about this grand-scale dining and entertainment emporium that offers fine brasserie style food at reasonable prices? Okay, the newly gilded Art Deco interiors and faux-natural lighting are vaguely reminiscent of Ceasar’s Palace in Las Vegas, but there’s also a touch of 1970s Biba about the decor. And it feels refreshingly like the space has been de-spooked since the old Atlantic Bar and Grill days.

Arrive at almost any time for a meal and there’s usually a table available – covered with a crisply pressed pink jacquard cloth. If you’re alone, or first to arrive, you’re immediately offered a newspaper to read. The service is friendly and well informed, and the menu includes many dishes that seem stupidly cheap. Co-owner Jeremy King calls it, “catering for the mass-market, with mid-market aspirations.”

On a recent visit I enjoyed super-garlicky, gunky-green-gloop-drenched escargots – followed by delicious fresh grilled sardines with olive salad, accompanied by a side dish of somewhat more tinned-tasting ratatouille. My lunch date, from Fable & Co, had a celeriac remoulade, followed by duck confit and French beans – as well as an isle flottante (just the one Parisian airport-like form – though thankfully not set like cement). All that plus a jolly good bottle of cremant blanc de blancs, a coffee and a pot of not-so-French tea for well under £40 a head.

We liked it so much that we’ve decided to go back for some cabaret at the Crazy Coqs, where ex-Vegas showgirl, the fashionably named Miss Hope Springs is performing. They may feel cheated by our post-Olympic chutzpah, but I do hope Parisians are creatively inspired by London’s stylish interpretation of Frenchness. If not, they should at least feel flattered.

Share This Post

About Author Profile: Susan Muncey

Trend consultant Susan Muncey, is Editor of Visuology Magazine. In 2008, she founded online curiosity shop, She writes on style and trends for several blogs, including, and The Dabbler. She previously owned cult West London boutique, Fashion Gallery, one of the first concept stores in the world. Susan graduated in geography from Cambridge University and is also an Associate Member of the CFA Institute. She lives in London with her husband.

10 thoughts on “Brasserie Z​édel: London’s Stylish Interpretation of Frenchness

      September 15, 2012 at 19:37

      Curious coincidence – and something I didn’t mention, the eclectic clientele – makes a change from expense account/ladies that lunch. Btw I think the owners’ names somehow got muddled in your post?

        September 16, 2012 at 10:57

        Whoops, of course- serious typo. Loosing the plot. Many thanks for pointing this out- I’ve corrected it. Your snails sounded good. Also love celeriac remoulade. Need to go back and explore the menu a bit more…it was amazing value. That fixed menu for eight pounds (or whatever it was)…

    September 15, 2012 at 18:12

    Blimey Luke – another coincidence – I’ve just come back from lunch at Zedel with Mrs Mahler. I had been to this subterranean hall-of-mirrors in another life, many years ago when it was, as Susan reminds us, the Atlantic Bar and Grill (I don’t remember bothering with the Grill). The Z-List celebrity count was worryingly high when we were shown to table 66 – Gail from Corrie, and restaurateur Tom Aikens – but from here it was all downhill and picking up speed. Under seventy smackers for two (a third of which was for a decent Sauvignon), genuine French cooking, great (but not in your face) service, and prices that are spookily low for 60 metres from the winged nude archer. Lavs were beautiful too – plenty of white porcelain for Percy, and no sign of those dreadful Dyson Airblade hand dryers that rip the skin off your hands. What’s not to like? Very little.

      September 15, 2012 at 19:47

      Yes, fab loos, mahlerman. Fine wash basin marble – like something from the original Savoy – and exquisite Art Nouveauy ginkgo leaf shaped coral and white tiles… were those in the gents too?

      September 16, 2012 at 12:28

      But didn’t you think it was all, just, oh I don’t know how to put it- a trifle too new and shiny?

  2. Gaw
    September 15, 2012 at 21:44

    Wasn’t the hotel that occupied the building before the Atlantic Bar and Grill a bit of a pick-up joint/knocking shop, very handy for Piccadilly? I bet there weren’t any psychogeographic indications. Both London and Paris seem very tame compared to the day before yesterday, don’t they?

    September 16, 2012 at 07:28

    Didn’t notice the tiles in the loo Susan, but the ‘eclectic clientele’ were represented, in the next stall to mine, by a youngish gentleman from Fashion Week central casting, with trousers that finished at mid-calf, decent shiny shoes and a well-cut sport jacket, but topped with a ginger, waxed, handlebar moustache of, oh, 6 inches (no jokes please). It kind-of distilled the whole experience of Zedel into a single human form.

    September 16, 2012 at 17:45

    I concur with your assessment of Charles de Gaulle airport – I was gobsmacked by its hellishness when we a changeover there.

    Hey Skipper
    September 16, 2012 at 21:34

    I concur with Brit’s concurrence of your assessment of CDG.

    Probably the worst airport I have ever been to, and that list is pretty long.

    On my last trip through there, I was lucky enough to be ticketed with the posh. Even the First Class lounge was sucktastic.

Comments are closed.