Ta­ble talk

This week, our critic en­joys the food – and a jewel-en­crusted Pe­ga­sus – in Sel­f­ridges

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - Contents - Wil­liam Sitwell

Wil­liam Sitwell vis­its Sel­f­ridges’ Brasserie of Light

YOU MAY NOT have come across Richard Car­ing, but I have sat ad­ja­cent to him. I was in the har­bour of Portofino on the Ital­ian Riv­iera hav­ing a drink when he ar­rived with his lap­dog and en­tourage at a neigh­bour­ing ta­ble. Car­ing made money in fash­ion and then moved into prop­erty and restau­rants. He owns a num­ber of fa­mous es­tab­lish­ments, in­clud­ing Le Caprice and the night­club Annabel’s, and one of his lat­est ven­tures is the Brasserie of Light, a sparkling, twin­kling palace of chan­de­liers and mir­rors at the Lon­don depart­ment store Sel­f­ridges.

I re­flected on Mr Car­ing as I pon­dered some words of his, re­leased to a grate­ful pub­lic on the open­ing of the BOL at the end of last year. The text was bold, ab­so­lute: ‘When you think of the cap­i­tal city of the world you think of Lon­don. When you think of Lon­don you think of Sel­f­ridges.’

I thought of him con­ceiv­ing these words. A la Churchill per­haps, as por­trayed in Dark­est Hour: Car­ing yells out the lines as he steps out of the bath; sit­ting out­side on the stairs is a flunkie scrib­bling fran­ti­cally on a notepad. Or maybe he’s in his dress­ing room, in front of the mir­ror. The but­ler has eased a din­ner jacket on to Car­ing’s shoul­ders and is dust­ing down the col­lars as the boss ad­justs his bow tie. ‘When you think of Lon­don,’ he says, paus­ing to flick back a few wisps of his thick grey bouf­fant, ‘you think of Sel­f­ridges.’ There’s a flash of white teeth. ‘Whad­dya think, Jeeves?’ he

says. ‘Most stir­ring, sir,’ replies the but­ler. ‘In­deed, if I may say so, sir, sin­gu­larly un­equiv­o­cal.’

In fact, I sup­pose what re­ally hap­pened was Car­ing was sit­ting at his desk when his PR came in seek­ing ap­proval for a press re­lease and the boss just waved it off with­out read­ing: ‘I’m sure it’s fine, just get it out there.’

What­ever the truth, here I am at my desk think­ing of Sel­f­ridges and the Brasserie of Light, and I think of Pe­ga­sus, for you can’t miss her in the res­tau­rant. She is the sen­sa­tional cre­ation of artist Damien Hirst. With a wing­span of 30ft, her crys­tal-en­crusted frame is poised, mid-flight, op­po­site a vast win­dow. The best time to see her is at night, as you en­ter the main res­tau­rant from the bar, be­cause her re­flec­tion ap­pears in the win­dow like a mys­ti­cal holo­gram. She sparkles, the mir­rored walls sparkle back, the lights twin­kle and the table­tops, also mir­rors, do their bit too. Yet the ef­fect is ethe­real and calm, like Pe­ga­sus her­self.

The menu is big and blowsy, like an all-day brasserie’s should be, ex­cept ev­ery dish has bells, or should I say crys­tals, on. So the sour­dough is salt-crusted, the pump­kin soup is iron­bark (I don’t know what that is ei­ther), the dress­ing for the crab is lob­ster, the chicken dumpling comes with truf­fle… you get the pic­ture.

I went for tuna carpac­cio, which came in a cit­rus ponzu dress­ing. Ac­tu­ally, let’s say swim­ming in, or washed away in a flood of… The tangy sauce sim­ply be­came the dish. But the tuna was good, with rich dol­lops of wasabi mayo and some crunchy deep-fried stuff scat­tered on top. We shared some ex­cel­lent zuc­chini fritti too. The cour­gette sliced beau­ti­fully thin, with light bat­ter fried in fresh oil, so they achieved that per­fect de­gree of mor­eish crunch with just a hint of grease. A far cry from the worst type of Ital­ian res­tau­rant where the cour­gette is thickly chopped, fried in old oil that lingers in the mouth, and you al­most need Swar­fega to get it off your fin­gers. My spaghet­tini with lob­ster was sim­i­larly ac­com­plished. The chilli and gar­lic didn’t drown the soft, but­tery lob­ster, which had been cooked to ten­der great­ness.

I then went nuts on your be­half and or­dered the ‘cho­co­late bub­ble’, a mix­ture of mousse, brownie, cho­co­late pearls and milk ice cream that could have been a lit­tle too Ben & Jerry’s for a posh gaff like this. In fact, it was an el­e­gant lucky dip. Crunchy cho­co­late ‘bub­ble wrap’ stud­ded with cho­co­late pearls surfed on the soft­est mousse, lightly sprin­kled with tex­tu­rally per­fect choccy ‘soil’. The brownie was not too rich, and the whole thing was cooled fur­ther by the ice cream.

I also found an old friend on the wine menu – an as­syr­tico from the Greek is­land of San­torini. If you like the idea of a sub­tle chardon­nay-type grape, which grows through vol­canic dust, whose cir­cu­lar vines are doused in the fresh and salty mist of the Cre­tan Sea, or­der a bot­tle be­fore you de­clare in your most thes­pian voice, ‘Is that a myth­i­cal fly­ing horse I see be­fore me?’

We shared some ex­cel­lent zuc­chini fritti. They achieved that per­fect de­gree of mor­eish crunch

Brasserie of Light Sel­f­ridges400 Ox­ford Street Lon­don W1A 1AB 020-3940 9600 brasserie-of-light.co.uk Star rat­ing  Din­ner for two £90 ex­clud­ing drinks and ser­vice

The cho­co­late bub­ble Be­low

Tuna carpac­cio in a cit­rus ponzu dress­ing. Above

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.