Thanks to the exceptionally shrewd and innovative restaurateurs Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, London now has a constellation of excellent modern brasseries to rival those of Paris. After the success of the Wolseley, The Delaunay and Brasserie Zédel, their latest is this charming place in Islington with frosted glass windows, a warm, vaguely art-nouveau inspired wood-panelled interior with lots of small banquette tables for cosy dining tête-à-tête, and a menu that’s solidly inspired by Alsace, the birthplace of the brasserie, with a nod or two at German and Austrian comfort-food cooking as well.
“What I’ve always liked about brasseries is their democratic DNA. You can find a cab driver having a bowl of soup sitting next to a countess feasting on oysters, and both of them are having a good time in the same place,” says Jeremy King. How many countesses are swanning through Islington these days is anyone’s guess, but with a great location overlooking Islington Green, Bellanger, which is named for a defunct French car manufacturer – Société des Automobiles Bellanger Frères, 1912 to 1925 – is pulling the mixed crowd that provides some good people-watching.
Dining with a group of friends, we started with Carlingford Lough oysters and two tartes flambées, the famous Alsatian baker’s tart of fine dough topped with crème fraîche and garnishes of bacon, mushrooms or goat’s cheese.
Main courses sampled include mussels steamed in Norman cider, venison steak with parsnip purée, seared scallops with crab croquettes and veal schnitzel Holstein (with a fried egg, capers and anchovy). All were beautifully prepared from excellent produce and generously served. Blackberry and apple crumble and Gewürztraminer custard with Mirabelle compote concluded this lively meal; at the end of which I found myself, as a Parisian of many years, wishing we had a place this good back home.
9 Islington Green, London. Tel.+44 020 7226 2555. Average dinner £30. Website: www.bellanger.co.uk
From France Today magazine