Tom visits a buzzy Mayfair brasserie with tucker and service worth shouting about.
You can usually judge the quality of a restaurant by the skill with which they mix a martini. The cocktail must be ice cold, of course, dryer than a Kalahari wind, and served in a small glass. This last point being all important, because it needs to be finished in no more than four generous sips. Too much liquid and the contents grow queasily lukewarm.
Which is an issue here at Richoux, as I gaze at about half a pint of gin, rapidly losing its cool. Generous, sure, but just plain wrong. Still, there’s much to love about this modern brasserie, a place I had always written off as a dumb Piccadilly tourist trap. Cash has been flashed on a refit, a couple of talented new chefs brought in, and the front window filled with the sort of patisserie that gets people who like patisserie very excited indeed. The lighting’s good, there are booths, and a merry buzz too.
I’m lunching with Jonathan and Jeanine. The former used to eat at this Mayfair outpost (it was once a mini chain) with that legendary tailor Dougie Hayward. ‘Old school,’ he says approvingly. Just like the jumbo prawn cocktail, half a dozen pert, plump prawns, lolling on a bed of crisp lettuce and drenched in a punchy marie rose sauce.
Crispy duck salad is generous with watermelon and shards of crisp, sticky quacker ‒ easily the equal of that classic at Le Caprice (RIP). Burgers only come well done (why?), so croque monsieur it is, an ooh-la-la classic, the exterior encrusted in burnished cheese, the whole thing barely able to contain a joyous excess of ham, béchamel and still more oozing fromage.
A club sandwich too, just because it’s there. The bacon is crisp, the chicken buxom and everything slathered in a healthy slick of mayonnaise. But where’s the all-important middle slice of toast? Without that essential central ballast, it’s simply a sandwich. Albeit a handsome one. Jonathan’s pan-fried lamb loin is sweet and blessedly pink, the dauphinoise potatoes reassuringly creamy, and the puddings ‒ something chocolate, and something cakey ‒ elicit an ecstatic response. OK, so this is not The Wolseley. Nothing ever will be. But Richoux is eminently civilised and stonking value, too. With charming service to match. A fine addition to any area, but on Piccadilly, it’s not just something to shout about; rather whoop, holler and cheer.
Around £30 per head. Richoux, 172 Piccadilly, London W1; richoux.co.uk