Monday, 28 November 2011

Angelic Gastronomy


Recently voted one of Zagat’s top five London bistros, Angelus is a former public house that Fay Maschler describes as being “not a gastropub but a gastronomic one.”

Situated opposite The Royal Lancaster Hotel in a somewhat forgotten enclave of Bayswater next to the stables of my friends Richard and Basia Briggs, Angelus occupies the site of a former 19th century pub that used to be called The Archery Tavern. Much of the Victorian character of the pub has been retained with dark wood paneling, stained glass and banquette seating though the restaurant has been given an art deco lift through the use of chandeliers and elaborate mirrors.

 The main dining space at Angelus

The proprietor of Angelus is Thierry Tomasin, a genial gent from Toulouse who began his career in London at Le Gavroche before becoming general manager at Aubergine in Chelsea. He opened Angelus in 2007 and received great critical acclaim from not only Maschler, but also Jay Rayner, Marina O’Loughlin and Terry Durack.

Thierry Tomasin and Martin Nisbet

Martin Nisbet has been the chef at Angelus since 2009. Nisbet learnt his skills from the legendary Anton Edelmann at The Savoy and then went on to open a restaurant named Anton's in Hertfordshire.

On arrival we were offered a glass of champagne in a bar area to the rear of the building that is perfectly comfortable but somewhat tired. The manager informed us that it will be redecorated before the year is out and this certainly is a required improvement.

The bar at Angelus

In typically French fashion, the menu comprises dishes that are rich and complex and in a typically gastronomic way this menu is far from what you’d expect to find in a neighbourhood bistro.

The three-course set lunch, priced at £40 per person, is certainly punchy in terms of pricing for this location but, as my companion pointed out, this is a place that is supposedly a favoured haunt of wealthy politicians such as Tony Blair. In times of old, I also discovered, Winston Churchill used to hold “covert meetings” in the building and a film about the Profumo affair used the adjoining mews as Christine Keeler’s home so there’s definitely something of a political theme to this location.

We moved through to the main restaurant where I began with a French onion soup that I thought truly excellent. My friend’s ham hock terrine, though good, did contain some gristle but beyond that he found it enjoyable.

To follow, I took the lead of the management when they suggested the unusual combination of roasted stone bash with a confit of chicken wings served with smoked garlic and lemon mash and a red wine jus (£26). The stone bass was perfect in taste as were the chicken wings but my only criticism would be that I found the mash a little too sweet for my palette. My guest tried a pot-roasted chicken with truffle, creamed sweet corn, girolles, button onions and truffle gnocchi (£25). Though beautifully presented, he did find the portion a little on the small side.

We ended the meal with a well-presented selection of British and French cheeses accompanied by toasted walnut and prune bread (£14) before embarking on a tour of the fascinating cellars beneath the restaurant.

In a cavern dominated by the best French wines, Angelus stocks wines that start at just £20 for a bottle of 2008 Muscadet sur Lie and rises to a 2005 Le Pin Pomerol for £3,400 a bottle. Here is a list that also includes New World and Lebanese wines as well as a range of Château Angelus 1er Grand Cru imported directly from Hubert de Bourad de Laforest’s own château. Beyond the cellars is a charmingly decorated private dining room and a chef’s table in the kitchen.

Angelus is a restaurant where it would be easy to while away many an hour but next time I’ll be sure to try a dish I shouldn't have missed, the restaurant’s signature foie gras crème brûlée.

Angelus, 4 Bathurst Street, London, W2 2SD. Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7402 0083. Website: http://www.angelusrestaurant.co.uk

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

This restaurant does seem very expensive and I'm not really sure it is worth it.

Blair Fan said...

If Tony and Cherie eat there, it must be good (and they probably get comped).