Anyone who enjoys elegant dining in London on a regular basis will surely have come across at least one of the stylised Chris Corbin and Jeremy King venues, for the double-act don’t simply create restaurants, they create institutions; Le Caprice (1981), The Ivy (1990), J Sheekey (1998), The Wolseley (2003), The Delaunay (2011), Brasserie Zédel (2012) and Colbert (2012) – are all at the heart of the London dining scene and have won many plaudits in their lifetimes.
Every Corbin and King premises I’ve frequented (and that was all of them with the exception of Bellanger until recently) boasts its own distinctive decor and cuisine such as the Parisian-style Colbert on Sloane Square, the New York-esque Colony Grill at their 1920s-style five star flagship Beaumont Hotel (a world away from nearby pavement-crammed Oxford Street), Brasserie Zedel with its informal ground floor café and basement restaurant, bar and live music theatre, to the marvellously informal neighbourhood café and Konditorei, Fischer’s, on Marylebone High Street with a waistcoat-wearing front of house and the best Sachertorte in London. The thing uniting all Corbin & King restaurants is the impression that they’ve always been there – a sophisticated aura that makes us feel as though we’ve stepped into a more reassuring past, cosseting us from the cares of the day.
A case in point is the Corbin & King Islington outpost inspired by Alsatian cuisine, Bellanger, with its inviting blue frontage and terrace overlooking Islington Green, a short tube-hop away from their other Mayfair and central London addresses, with more of a neighbourhood atmosphere than the others, despite its incredibly elegant, Belle-Epoque ‘grand brasserie’ interior, complete with sexy booths, smoky mirrors and sultry lighting which dims with each passing hour of the evening, not to mention the impressively long bar crying out to make you a breakfast, lunch, pre or post-dinner cocktail, or all four. Meanwhile, traditional Alsace-Lorraine beer is on tap and the carefully selected Alsatian wines are a wise choice. We opted for the Alsace Riesling 2017 (a well-priced £41) produced by Bruno Sorg whose family have been making wine since the 18th century.
The large terrace at Bellanger is the perfect spot during the summer months. Watch the world go by and the hub that is Islington Green as you enjoy an early evening al fresco glass of Sancerre or a bottle of Clos Mireille with friends. From mid-July, Bellanger will introduce a dedicated rosé menu, showcasing some of the finest French varieties, along with a sparkling Ayala Rosé Majeur and Bollinger Rosé NV.
Bellanger’s extensive all day menu can be as extravagant or casual as you like, although it makes sense to sample the house specialities celebrating the Alsace region of France on your first visit. To start I considered everything from the fish soup with rouille, escargots à la Persillade, steak tartare or half a dozen Carlingford Lough rock oysters straight up with all the trimmings – my ultimate choice and a happy one, particularly alongside a chilled glass of Pommery Champagne.
For the main event I was drawn to the classic French bistro favourite coq au Riesling, although in the end, and despite the heatwave apparently suppressing my appetite, I persuaded husband to go half/half on a crispy skinned duck confit with cherry sauce and scrummy parmentier potatoes, plus the signature ‘Choucroute a l’Alsacienne’; a stew pot (available for one or two) featuring smoked pork belly, ham hock, frankfurter, ham and garlic sausage and montelier sausage served with boiled potatoes and divine sauerkraut to cut through the richness.
The Alsatian tarte flambée is a house favourite as both a lunch dish and a sharing starter, or even an intermediate course after oysters, if the neighbouring table of four chaps I observed during my visit is anything to go by. A jolly good idea I reckon. In addition to the epic, please-all a la carte which also includes a casual range of hot sandwiches such as croque monsieur and even a house hamburger, Bellanger offer an excellent value lunch and early evening menu for the business crowd or theatre goers heading to the nearby Almeida or King’s Head Theatre, and it’s a popular spoil-yourself breakfast and weekend brunch spot too, which won’t come as a surprise given how famed their big sister The Wolseley’s breakfasts have become. From morning to night, croissant to crème brûlée, Bellanger is the spot on the green you can rely on to fortify and delight.
Bellanger, 9 Islington Green, London N1 2XH. For more information and reservations please visit the website.