Big Fernand, Fitzrovia

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, French
Damage££
Ideal for: Wine, Food, Burgers

 

Okay. I really don’t want to tell anyone else how wonderful this Big Fernand is.

Though, yes, the Hoodooist tends to primarily review bars, it is hard to pass up talking about what is quickly becoming his favourite burger joint in London (outside Le Bun, but that’s another story, click HERE for a Le Bun review!)

Crossing the channel, the Parisian burger venture brings with it a wonderful selection of French wines, cheeses, savoir faire – and let’s not forget, hamburgés.

Downstairs, black is accented with wooden features down an aisle with its six-person burger assembly line from counter to server, decorated with classic French signage and exposed bulb lighting. Upstairs, the Hoodooist’s dream studio, a floral dining room, with vintage portraits and focal point fireplace surround a dining table perfect for an event. I could move right in tomorrow if I could.

Big Fernand London burgers

With meat cooked all the way from blue rare to well done – and we mean French blue rare, no kidding around here – burgers utilise beef, veal, lamb, chicken and a vegetarian option. And other than the carefully constructed 6 on-menu choices, diners get a ‘build a burger’ option to design their own.  With a selection of various sauces and several herbs, the cheeses make some of the most exciting choices from farmhouse goat cheese, herbal Tomme de Savoie, sweet blue Fourme d’Ambert to the quintessential oozy Raclette.

Big Fernand London burgers

Beginning with the slightly formidable Le Bartholomé, beef meets Raclette, bacon, carmelised onions, chives, and topped with home-made barbecue and cocktail sauce. A hefty beast, the Bartholomé came cooked to a medium-rare perfection, oozing with the softly-sweet Raclette and the sauces that seem to complement each other so surprisingly well – and with that subtle kick of the chives. The Bartholomé finds a way to take a classic, and stick to a classic formula, while twisting it with new flavours to give us a continental take on a gourmet bacon burger.

 

And because one wasn’t enough (even with a side of perfectly seasoned spiced fries) – Le Victor enters the arena, the rose veal topped with blue Fourme d’Ambert cheese, caramelised onions, coriander and home-made sweet mayonnaise. Corianderphobes do not panic – the herb doesn’t scream at you, but nudges lightly under the burger’s sweeter ingredients. An excellent approach to a veal burger (and that cheese!).

 Big Fernand London burgers

And to go with the concluding cheese plates, the wines, supplied by Michel Chapoutier, included the house red Marius, and the Petite Ruche 2012.

The Marius is a bold wine, a Grenache/Syrah, the nose is almost intimidating. The palate is powerful, a complex array of spiciness, berries and a certain darkness, balanced lightly by the floral Grenache. Not necessarily the Hoodooist’s favourite, especially when the beautiful Petite Ruche is on offer.

The Petite Ruche 2012 is built to be served with meat. Unmistakably Rhone, chewy and dry with fabulous full body. A palate of ripe red berries and cassis, with overlaps of spice and pepper, and something drier, perhaps tobacco. Almost deceptively easy to drink, I can’t imagine dining here without a bottle of the Ruche on the table.

Big Fernand London burgers cheese

Service is absolutely wonderful. Downstairs, the several Fernands walk you through the process on the assembly line where you collect your burgers, and upstairs, they make delightful hosts – your glasses are always full, and so are your bellies – chances are, you’ll go for a second hamburgé before the night’s out.

I mean, how can you help yourself?

 

Drinks: ****
Food: *****
Atmosphere: Downstairs: ***, Upstairs: *****
Service: *****

 

Big Fernand

19 Percy Street, Fitzrovia,
London, W1T 1DY

http://www.bigfernand.co.uk

Bar Americain @ Brasserie Zedel, Soho

Type of Bar: Vintage, French, Bar/Restaurant
Damage££
Ideal for: Date, Small Groups, Classics

 

The Brasserie Zedel is so far (up until the Beaumont Hotel, coming soon) Corbin and King’s largest venture, spanning three floors: the ZL Café as you enter, below it is the Crazy Coqs, and finally the Bar Americain and Brasserie. The tiered gastronomicon is a feast for the eyes, and with good reason appeared in the top 10 of Archtectural Digest’s Most Beautiful Venues.
The Hoodooist adores the ZL café as a respite from the bustling Piccadilly Circus, and cannot resist the charm of the Francophone staff and spot-on French café interior – who needs a Eurostar ticket? Especially with the wine list which, though short, has much to offer in quality and price.
Down the stairs, you find yourself in an Art Deco paradise, faced with two very different bars: The Crazy Coqs and the Bar Americain.

The Crazy Coqs Cabaret provides a Lynchian red and monochrome setting for daily cabaret, comedy and jazz performances. Where drinks (10 pounds a pop) are concerned, we find top-shelf liquors served up in classics, suiting the nature of the bar perfectly.

ZL2
Next, getting past the dashing host of the Bar Americain: the sumptuous venue, again arrayed with the Zedel’s trademark illuminated pillars, is decorated with images of aeroplanes and Sylvain Chomet-esque sketches in a dim-lit environment. Very easy to relax in; fantastic to bring in a couple of friends, and perfect for a date.

You’re faced with classics and a short, but enterprising list of house cocktails. The selection is varied in style, from the bright and lively French Aperitif and Parisian Summer; to the deeper and darker Chrysler Cocktail and Valentino’s Revenge.

The Josephine is a spectacular accomplishment: Golden Rum, Lillet Rouge, Campari, Benedictine, bitters. The initial assault of golden sweetness sinks into the depth of the Lillet Rouge, finally brought up to distant herbal simmer to balance with the Campari and Benedictine. Smooth, and surprisingly easy to drink, the Josephine is quite possibly one of my favourite drinks here.

Lee Hyde’s expertise creates spectacular drinks, but some of the recipes in an attempt to be adventurous, overload the senses with too many ingredients, for example: the Chrysler Cocktail that has such potential, ends up confused and muddled. The Chrysler, even in theory sounds like it needs to lose something, but would then taste wonderful if it did: Cognac, Chambord, port, Campari, Orange Curacao and bitters. On the other hand, the Metropolis’ simple combination of Crémant, cherry liqueur, Orgeat, bitters and lime is a winning combination.

Not to mention, here, classics rule the roost. A whiskey Old Fashioned to knock your socks off and a Martini for days. Beautifully done.

ZL1

Finally, the Brasserie Zedel – I’m not going to spend long on this, I’ll just say that French friends quickly took to the brasserie, and it certainly is fun to see a Parisian squeal and swear happily at the sight of the menu. Prices can range between 11 pounds for Prix Fixe menus, or go crazy a la carte. The versatile prices mean a wide range of patrons, and therefore always busy. Booking in advance for a Saturday night is necessary, and pre-theatre dinners are packed. There is a selection of tables kept aside, so if you’re walking in, you might still be lucky with a small party.

 

The Bar Americain and Zedel are impeccable. The variety in what it has to offer makes it a destination all unto itself – on a night out, we struggle to stay in one venue and normally dine or drink in each one.

I’ve always expressed my fondness for Corbin and King ventures, and Zedel was actually my introduction to them. I was similarly impressed by their Fischer’s, Colbert, and Delaunay (Click HERE for review!). I excitedly look forward to the Beaumont Hotel (2014).

Drinks: ****
Atmosphere: *****
Service: ****

 

Bar Americain @ Brasserie Zedel

20 Sherwood Street
London W1F 7ED

http://www.brasseriezedel.com/