A cornerstone of the Covent Garden dining scene, when Les Deux Salons was acquired by Prescott & Conran in late 2014, a lavish million pound redesign was inevitable, while the restaurant’s location guaranteed both old and new customers would be eager to see the changes.
Although you might easily think you’re in Paris when inside, you simply couldn’t find a restaurant better placed for combining a meal with some of London’s greatest cultural delights, being a mere hop, skip and a jump from the fine art housed in both the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery on Trafalgar Square and St Martin’s Place; along with the exquisite Christopher Wren designed St Martin’s-in-the-Field to the left, long since a legend on the classical music world stage, and finally, the capital’s unrivalled theatre district starting just around the corner on St Martin’s Lane where you’ll find the London Coliseum, home to both English National Opera and English National Ballet.
Formerly run by Will Smith and Anthony Demetre of Arbutus and Wild Honey, I confess to being rather distraught when Les Deux Salons, my regular pre-theatre dining spot closed for almost six months, yet when Prescott & Conran commissioned Isabelle Chatel de Brancion of Spin Architecture to lead the refurbishment project, it proved well worth the wait. The 240 cover two-storey restaurant gives a more authentic impression of a grand French brasserie on entering now, with a relaxed café; an épicerie filled with gastronomic delights to take away; an inviting bar featuring bottle green trimmings, and a smart, though informal, bistro giving pleasure to Francophiles throughout the day, whether for a quick coffee and their freshly baked viennoiserie, a leisurely repast, or the good value prix fixe menu prior to a concert, play or exhibition nearby.
The more subdued first floor meanwhile boasts private dining rooms and a linen-bedecked restaurant with an altogether more exclusive and distinctly clubby feel; the preference of business men entertaining with or without their clients. More striking than formerly, there are red velvet conversation seats and injections of Art Deco glamour dotted about such as mosaic-mirrored pillars and a specially commissioned modern chandelier suspended from the double-height atrium which provides an interesting focal point to upstairs diners who get the benefit of the buzz emanating from the bistro below without being in the thick of it.
Upstairs or down, you can be sure of hearty, generous fare; from oysters au naturel and extravagant fruits der mer to Dover sole served with hollandaise sauce – the à la carte menu is bold, unfussy and luxurious in homage to the most legendary Parisian brasseries of the 19th century, along with daily changing cuisine bourgeoise dishes to enjoy pour deux such as lapin à la moutarde (rabbit in a mustard sauce served with tagliatelle), canard de dombes (whole French duck served with a cherry sauce and Salardaise potatoes) and choucroute garnie (the famous Alsatian pork feast served with saauerkraut); yet this simplistic kind of food relies entirely on the skill and precision of the kitchen, with no elaborate presentation or modern gimmicks with which to disguise errors.
Les Deux Salons, 40-42 William IV Street, London WC2N 4DD. The ground floor cafe and bistro is open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, pre-theatre, dinner and late supper, while the first floor restaurant is open for lunch and dinner. For more information and reservations visit the website.