I was looking for that perfect brasserie. The one that tourists hadn’t ruined yet, where I’d be taken back to the old world of Paris and drink far too much red wine and stumble out happy and drunk. The Paris from the movies. The one where everything is so perfectly French. Sadly Le Grand Colbert wasn’t that. Something just wasn’t right about the place. I felt it from the moment I walked in. It felt like it wasn’t really in France but instead was in Covent Garden. It has the feel of a restaurant that is trying to give off a French feeling, but just falls short and comes across as being false and soulless. I should have known that it was going to be overrun by tourists given that it was the setting for a scene between Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton from Something’s Gotta Give. Maybe before this Hollywood cameo, the restaurant really was a grand French establishment. But now it is just filled with American tourists. Lots and lots of annoying American tourists who couldn’t stop gasping at how good the food was. Which it really wasn’t.
Then there was the service. It was somewhere between friendly and rude. Hints of both came out during the night, but overall it was just like they couldn’t be arsed. As if they knew that they don’t have to do anything to keep people coming. That cameo in the film has cemeneted their place in history. Even the menu which is crammed with French classics so that it overflows from the page managed to frustrate me. It was just too much, like it was trying to keep every tourist who wanders in there happy by making sure that no dish was excluded.
I settled for an artichoke salad to start. It was inoffensive, but just not that good. Just too much of that vinegar flavour that they’d been preserved in. But was it really worth €13? I’d complain about paying half this price in London for what I was given.
The French onion soup was tepid and lacked any depth of flavour. I’ve made better myself, and I’m not a great cook. This should be a simple classic, one any French chef can churn out to a consistently high standard. This was a real half-arsed attempt.
The same applies to the Fish Soup which was nothing more than a thin fish stock. Where was that flavour of the liqor and the rich shelffish juices?
For main I had skate with mashed poato and a butter and lemon sauce. Once I’d got past the army of capers, it tasted fine, even if the fish wasn’t the freshest. The potato masher must have been the laziest in the world though, because these were as lumpy as you can get.
The grilled chicken was overcooked but did have a lovely deep meaty gravy to go with it, and the skin was covered in salty goodness.
The Veal stew with a creamy sauce was tender but the sauce just lacked flavour. It wasn’t creamy at all.
To finish we had a baked Alaska that was flambéed in rum. Again it wasn’t bad in any way, just not something you’d remember. By this point I was so ready to leave and sick of French food that the drama of lighting the rum was lost on me.
So once again trying to find that perfect French brasserie has eluded me. It was also another expensive meal at €60 a head, given we only had one vinegary bottle of Sancerre (€33 a bottle) and shared a dessert between 4 of us.