Restaurant Review: Brasserie Chavot
Back in the days when such things were permissible, your intrepid restaurant critic was dispatched by the FT to go to Cannes, where an English chef was cooking French food. It was decreed hugely amusing that I should take with me a French chef cooking French food in London. This onerous task was offered to Eric Chavot, whom I’d never met before. He was then the holder of two Michelin stars at Knightsbridge’s Capital Hotel, which boasted quite the dullest dining room in London but some of the most exciting food to be had in town.
Eric can out-talk most people but unlike your average verbose fellow, much of what he says is worth listening to and entertaining. I found myself sharing my then germ of an idea to open a super-smart Indian restaurant which I wished to call The Cinnamon Club. So in the south of France where we were on a mission to evaluate the unlikely prospects of a rosebif cooking for frogs thinking the chef owner would get three Michelin stars instead of the eviction notice that led him to scarper, Eric and I discussed the re-invention of the curry. Our PR friend Jori White, who set up the introduction between us and arranged the trip, naturally didn’t know what to make of this. I wrote a nice review as a kind of thank you for connecting me with the eccentric Frenchman.
Someone as energetic as Eric could not really fulfil his ambitions in a 30 seat restaurant so a couple of years ago he freed himself from the shackles that came with the pursuit of the third Michelin star. I remember telling him at the time not to leave The Capital until he found somewhere new to move to. But he didn’t listen and it took him from then to now to find his new home. The Westbury is one of Mayfair’s dullest hotels and luckily Brasserie Chavot is set to its side with its own frontage and entrance.
Whilst Balthazar has an over-decorated feel to compensate for the food, here the long high-ceilinged room is under-stated and allows proper respect for what comes out on the plates.
Eric’s period of hibernation has been spent sourcing and researching. This is evident from the sourdough bread (chef – naughty and un-necessary for you to charge for this) and the splendid olives. Soft shell crabs are deep fried and served on a page from Le Monde. Steak tartare is richly decorated and served with a poached quail’s egg.
The daube is as good a piece of slow cooked beef as you will find. If you have that and the mega-buttery mash with it, eat lentils for the rest of the week. The choucroute also shows testimony to Eric’s sourcing – there’s some serious sausage in there!
Like Balthazar, staff are extremely friendly and knowledgeable about the ingredients. The clientele at time of opening was full of chefs and food writers and they will soon make way for Mayfair diners who care less about who’s on the next table than what’s on their plate.
Make sure you visit Brasserie Chavot – just don’t ask for Table 9. That’s mine.
Iqbal Wahhab OBE